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Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development

Examine economic and social development in the cultural context of Vietnam, one of Asia’s most dynamic and rapidly changing countries.

This program examines how, after emerging from decades of war and isolation, Vietnam today is experiencing tremendous growth and, over the last decade, has boasted one of the strongest economies in Asia. Students consider critical issues such as sustainable resource management, intense urbanization, changing family and marriage patterns, and integration with global networks and institutions that Vietnam faces as a result of this growth.

Major topics of study include:

  • Pressing issues caused by rapid urbanization within the context of the Doi Moi “Renovation” economic reform
  • Challenges of sustainable development and current strategies for new rural development in the Mekong Delta
  • The effects of war, development, and tourism on Vietnam’s rich but increasingly fragile heritage
  • The lives of Hmong and Red Dao ethnic minority groups in the Sapa mountains 

VietnamStudents in the Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development program examine Vietnam's traditional culture and value systems as well as the country's more recent economic, social, and environmental changes. Through close engagement with an outstanding array of academic and community experts, students experience how global, regional, and local forces are dynamically interacting to shape Vietnam today. 

Ho Chi Minh City

Students spend six weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, the program's base, while studying at the University of Economics, the program's in-country host institution. Students enjoy thought-provoking lectures and discussions on Vietnam's economic development and social transformation, learning from esteemed lecturers and guest speakers including scholars from the Fulbright Program Center.* During this portion of the program, students examine Vietnam's recent membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO); its regional development through ASEAN and APEC; and its post-embargo relationship with the United States, especially in regards to the two nations' recently ratified bilateral trade agreement.

*The Fulbright Economics Teaching Program was founded in 1994 as a partnership between the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Working with Hmong community in VietnamCommunity Volunteering Project

During the program's educational excursion in the Mekong Delta, students engage in a community volunteering project, an integral part of the program. The project's hands-on learning approach is an outstanding example of the experiential learning model; additionally, projects are specifically designed to assist a local community. Although they vary each semester, past community volunteering projects have included:

  • Developing a bio-digester in My Khanh village to serve as a local energy source
  • Participating in organic farming in Hoa An village in Hau Giang province with the help of local farmers
  • Helping at an elementary school for Hmong children in Sapa with sanitary facilities
  • Installing clean water pipes for a Hmong community in Lao Chai village in the Sapa mountains

Future projects are expected to focus on the use of organic farming methods or, alternatively, social issues, including working with Vietnamese orphans or patients living with HIV/AIDS. Students may also have the opportunity to help build a library or sanitation facilities for an elementary school in Sapa for a Hmong community in northern Vietnam.

The community volunteering project runs from between two days to one week, depending on the particular project and the local context.

Field Methods and Ethics

classroomThe Field Methods and Ethics course focuses on concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The course emphasizes:

  • Cross-cultural adaptation and skills building
  • Appropriate methodologies
  • Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing, and communicating data

Assigned papers provide an opportunity for students to test the tools introduced in the course while providing occasions for discussions on ethics and intercultural readings. Throughout the course, students work to develop their research topics for their Independent Study Projects. Students significantly advance their initial ideas, assumptions, and drafts, in close consultation with the academic director.

Independent Study Project

In the final month of the program, students complete an Independent Study Project (ISP), which provides each student with an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to them. The ISP is conducted in Ho Chi Minh City, or, with program approval, in another location appropriate to the student's project. Each student selects an ISP advisor from among the outstanding array of researchers and professionals affiliated with the program. 

Sample topics for the ISP include:

  • Gender roles in Vietnamese society
  • The impact of migration on urban life
  • Colonial architecture
  • Heritage site management and conservation
  • Microcredit projects and the informal economy
  • The business environment and entrepreneurship in Vietnam
  • Memory of the French and American wars
  • Tourism and development
  • Challenges to rural sustainable development
  • Aquaculture: shrimp and catfish farming
  • Social entrepreneurs and integration into the global economy
  • Issues of HIV/AIDS and public health
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Music and performance arts
  • Spirituality and religious practices
  • Fortune tellers, magic, and mysticism in a modern socialist society

Following the program's termination, students are encouraged to continue studying some aspect of their ISP, and ISPs have frequently served as the basis for senior theses, successful grant proposals, graduate-level research, and fellowships.

Learning alongside Vietnamese Students

with local studentsThroughout the semester, SIT students interact with Vietnamese university students in meaningful ways. Vietnamese students — often members of English-learning clubs — are invited to attend SIT lectures. This allows SIT students to have discussions on the lecture topic with their Vietnamese peers, and it gives the Vietnamese students an opportunity to hear lectures and conduct discussions in English.

Vietnamese students tutor SIT students on Vietnamese language and help them experience and understand Vietnamese culture and social life outside the classroom. Both groups participate in cultural exchange activities (for instance, teaching each other traditional games, songs, and dances).

In preparation for their Independent Study Projects (ISPs), SIT students are paired up with Vietnamese students to interview households in the Mekong Delta and NGOs in Ho Chi Minh City. During the ISP period, SIT students receive help with translation from their Vietnamese peers. The peer interaction supports student learning and aligns with the program’s philosophy that learning is not just about attaining knowledge, but experiencing life.

Access Virtual Library Guide

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

The Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development program explores Vietnam's history and cultural heritage while closely examining the country's more recent economic, social, and environmental transformations. Drawing upon SIT's extensive in-country networks, students gain exposure to the perspectives of both Vietnamese and international scholars and learn from academic, professional, and community experts. Students gain experience conducting field observations and interviews, and learn to analyze primary sources as well as secondary literature. During both classroom and field components, students are encouraged to take initiative in and responsibility for their own learning, reflect on and debate key issues, and integrate hands-on learning with an understanding of theoretical approaches. Study of the Vietnamese language provides a deeper connection with the culture and facilitates interaction with homestay families and local experts during fieldwork.

Economic Reform and Development – syllabus
(ASIA 3020 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
The course examines Vietnam’s development agenda and ethics and equity issues within the context of the country’s growing market economy and consumer class. Rapid economic development has come with sociopolitical changes and environmental costs. Students examine in detail the major turning point in Vietnam’s development, the Doi Moi “Renovation” economic reforms launched in 1986, and the rapid growth in trade and investment since that time. Excursions to both rural and urban areas in Vietnam, including the Mekong Delta, Central Vietnam, Hanoi, and Sapa, provide students with a variety of unique environments in which they can investigate the nuances of development.

Ethnicity, Gender, and Social Change – syllabus
(ASIA 3010 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This course explores the repercussions of the processes of social change in Vietnam with a special focus on specific groups such as women and ethnic minorities. Students are asked to analyze gender relations and ethnic minority perspectives from a comparative standpoint, in relation to both regional and global social and political change. Students look at the governance of ethnic minority affairs, the development problems faced by minority peoples, and the challenge of maintaining Vietnamese peoples’ diverse traditions throughout the process of nation-building. The course enables students to identify agents of change and their role in shaping sustainable social change.

Beginning Vietnamese – syllabus
(VIET 1000–1500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intermediate Vietnamese – syllabus
(VIET 2000–2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Advanced Vietnamese – syllabus
(VIET 3000–3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes.

Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
The course provides an introduction to the Independent Study Project and provides the foundational skills for conducting research in Vietnam. Topics include cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; identifying appropriate research methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Ho Chi Minh City or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: gender roles in Vietnamese society; the impact of migration on urban life; colonial architecture; heritage site management and conservation; the business environment and entrepreneurship in Vietnam; craft villages in transition; microcredit projects; poverty reduction and hunger eradication; Vietnamese culture viewed through the media, literature, or popular music; memory of the French and American wars; fortune tellers, magic, and mysticism in a modern socialist society.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects / Undergraduate Research.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

I have never travelled another country, including my own, in the same amazing way that I travelled across all of Vietnam with SIT. From the Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to Hue to Hanoi to Sapa, this study abroad experience is like none other because of the richness of your travels. You are not just a tourist; you leave each city with intimate knowledge, local friends, and a burning desire to return.

Kaitlin Hansen, Northwestern University

hikingEducational excursions directly immerse students in the cultural context and local realities of diverse Vietnamese communities. On excursion, students explore key questions related to issues such as traditional culture preservation, development pressures, and pervasive social inequalities. While in rural areas, students learn about rural development patterns and sustainable development practices. Direct immersion in varied environments provides students with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Vietnam's cultural and natural heritage.

Mekong Delta (Ten Days)

During this excursion, students examine rural development trends and sustainable development practices by attending site workshops facilitated by well-known lecturers at Can Tho University and the Mekong Delta Rice Institute. Topics explored include:

  • Rice farming and agricultural diversification
  • Community-based livelihood systems, such as organic farming and husbandry
  • The biogas model within the Mekong Delta’s integrated farming system
  • Mekong Delta water resources and the impact of climate change
  • Microfinance programs

Rice fields in Mekong deltaCentral to this excursion is conducting a community volunteering project, which could focus on organic farming methods or on installing a bio-digester with local farmers. Students experience how local residents are working to reduce current poverty levels and build suitable livelihood farming systems. Students witness ongoing conservation efforts to protect the Cajuput mangrove forest in Tra Su. Restoration efforts have been underway since 1983, and the forest has been extended by 700 hectares. The forest serves as a habitat for many kinds of water birds (primarily storks), colonies of bats, and various rare animal species. They also conduct village case studies in pairs with the help of local volunteers.

During the excursion to the Mekong Delta, students also observe local religious and cultural practices by examining the revival of local festivities and the upsurge in popular religion in Chau Doc, the border area between Vietnam and Cambodia.

See photos of the Mekong Delta excursion.

Day Trips and Historical and Cultural Field Visits

Monestary in VietnamIn Ho Chi Minh City, the program includes educational excursions designed to complement and enhance classroom study and field-based activities. These excursions provide students with experiential learning opportunities for a broader and deeper understanding of course content. Such excursions may include:

  • An introduction to Buddhism delivered by a monk at Van Hanh Institute
  • Visits to the War Remnant Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnel to introduce the Vietnam War from multiple perspectives
  • A day trip to Can Gio Mangrove Forest on the coastline of Ho Chi Minh City, which could include a tree planting activity
  • A day trip to Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7 to see the new Phu My Hung residential development, an example of some of the international influences on the city today
  • A two-day trip to Cat Tien, one of the most important and largest national parks in Vietnam, where students can observe rich flora and fauna systems and learn firsthand about the park’s conservation efforts

Da Nang and the Ancient Cities of Hue and Hoi An (One Week)

During this excursion, students examine the sustainable tourism boom in Hoi An, Da Nang, and Hue. Highlights of the excursion include visits to the ancient town of Hoi An and to Hue, Vietnam's last imperial city. In Hoi An, students observe conservation efforts to preserve the hundreds of old houses and the intangible cultural spaces in this ancient town. While in Hoi An, students have the opportunity to visit My Son sanctuary. My Son served as a center of Hinduism for the Cham Kingdom that dominated central and southern Vietnam from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries. While observing this ancient ruin, students will learn about Cham architecture and music.

From Hoi An, students may have the chance to visit Cu Lao Cham, an island marine park also known as Cham Island Biosphere Reserve. Students learn about plans for sustainable development in the area with an emphasis on preserving the environment and enhancing the income-generating capacity of the local people. In addition, students can go snorkeling in a nearby coral reef area. Hoi An, My Son, and Hue are all recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.

On the way from Hoi An to Hue, students visit Da Nang, the fastest developing city in central Vietnam. While in the imperial city of Hue, students visit the Forbidden Citadel and see well-known tombs while learning about Hue culture and the last  feudal dynasty — the Nguyen dynasty. Many students take advantage of this time to access Independent Study Project (ISP) research sites in Hoi An, Da Nang, and Hue and often meet potential ISP advisors and supporters.

Excursion to the North: Hanoi, Sapa, and Ha Long Bay (Twelve Days)

HanoiLocated on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is Vietnam's capital, its center of government, and the cradle of Vietnamese civilization. The year 2010 marked the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Hanoi.

In Hanoi, students attend seminars at Vietnam National  University and at the Faculty for International Studies, where lectures are delivered by many of the university's most esteemed professors. Students learn alongside Vietnamese students with whom they share insights, observations, and research. The lectures may focus on such diverse topics as

  • Civil Society in Vietnam and the roles of nonprofit organizations.
  • Vietnam’s international relations with the USA, China, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and ASEAN.
  • Government minority policies toward and relations with Vietnam’s ethnic groups and nationalities.
  • Current issues of land reform and land ownership.

During their time in Hanoi, students have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Meet with top historians and members of the Vietnamese National Assembly to discuss current political topics.
  • Visit major historical sites, including Van Mieu temple, the first and oldest university in Vietnam; the Presidential Palace; and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.
  • Visit the newly excavated historic Forbidden City, Thang Long, the royal city built in the eleventh century after Vietnam gained independence from Chinese occupation and rule. This visit is of particular interest for students interested in archaeology.
  • Meet with government officials and residents to discuss the preservation of cultural heritage sites. 
  • Observe the work NGOs such as Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, UNICEF, and UNDP are conducting in Vietnam.


SapaIn Sapa, students experience Vietnamese indigenous cultures and observe local music, dress, embroidery, and other crafts. They learn about the cultures of Hmong, Dao, and Giay ethnic groups in several surrounding villages. During excursions, students may witness firsthand activities of a Red Dao shaman and the indigo dyeing by Hmong women, and they may interact with local students. These educational excursions enhance students' understanding of the regions by allowing them to directly observe the dynamics affecting ethnic minority communities in Vietnam.

In Ha Long Bay, students experience the grottos, caves, and marine life of this beautiful and scenic bay.

The itinerary changes each semester to include less visited sites and rural areas vital to understanding Vietnam and the visible gap between urban and rural areas. Students engage with local residents through visits to religious temples and monasteries, nature reserves, local markets, orphanages, schools, and factories. Immediately preceding the Independent Study Project, this excursion forms the core of the travel portion of the program, and exposes students to myriad possibilities and contacts for their ISP.

Duong Van Thanh, EdD, Academic Director

Duong ThanhDuong Van Thanh earned an MA in public affairs and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Through work at Vietnam’s Ministry of Education in Hanoi, Thanh developed alternative educational models for students in rural Vietnam, led cross-cultural professional exchanges (both in Vietnam and the US), and worked with high-level officials on public policy development. Thanh also has considerable experience in student affairs in cross-cultural settings, including work conducted at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Thanh served as academic director of and senior lecturer for SIT's Vietnam: Cultural and Natural Ecology in the Mekong Delta program from spring 2005 to fall 2007. She has been the academic director of the SIT Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development program, based in Ho Chi Minh City, since spring 2008. Thanh also has served as the representative of the World Learning branch in Vietnam since 2008. She has a strong network of colleagues and contacts throughout the country.

Nguyen Tan Phat, Program Assistant

Phat NguyenA graduate of the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City, Phat Nguyen has been the program assistant for our program since fall 2013. Before joining the SIT team, Phat Nguyen was a dynamic student coordinator for SIT who usually supported the students and shared viewpoints on various issues with an aim to helping students further understand about Vietnam. In addition, he held the position of president of the Bell Club of the host University in Ho Chi Minh City. Bell Club is a volunteer organization of local students associated with English learning. During his time with the SIT program, Phat Nguyen has gained extensive experience with students. He is a true asset to the program.

Linh Tran, Office Manager

Linh Tran obtained a BA in international business from the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City (UEH), Vietnam. She has been an active member of the Bell Club, which promotes community service and English language practice among students at UEH. In the role of office manager, Linh supports the academic director in arranging and administering the program's many components, including orientation and educational excursions in Ho Chi Minh City. She also assists with general office management and administrative work.

Vy Dinh, Homestay Coordinator

Vy Dinh arranges all aspects of the students' homestay experiences and also lends other programmatic support. She graduated from the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City with a BA in tourism management.

Key Resource Faculty for This Program:

Duong Ngoc Dung, PhD

Duong DungDr. Duong Ngoc Dung holds a PhD in religious studies from Boston University (2001) and an MBA from UBI, Brussels (2008). He obtained a master's degree in East Asian history from Harvard University (1995) after receiving a scholarship from the Harvard-Yenching Institute. He also holds a graduate diploma in education (TESOL) from Canberra University in Australia and a BA in English literature from the University of Ho Chi Minh City. Since 2008, Dr. Duong Ngoc Dung has been a professor of business management (UBI, Vietnam) and a professor of international relations (USSH, Ho Chi Minh City). From 2001 to 2007, he served as professor of Asian religions and Oriental studies (USSH, National University, Ho Chi Minh City). He was also appointed the head of the East Asian Studies Department (2001–2004) and head of the Indian Studies Department (2004–2007) at the University of Ho Chi Minh City.

Bui Tran Phuong, PhD

Bui Phuong Dr. Bui Tran Phuong is the president of Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City. She was born in 1950 to a family of teachers. She inherited the virtues of an educator from her family members and has followed in their footsteps. She graduated from a French high school program at the level of “Standard of Excellence” and then moved to Paris in 1968 to attend college. She received a bachelor’s degree in history from Paris I University in 1972, a master’s degree from Paris VII University in 1994, a master’s degree in business administration from United Business Institutes (Belgium) in 2003, and, in 2008, she successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at Lyon 2 University in Lyon, France.

Dr. Phuong has taught at Marie Curie High School in Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho University, Pedagogy University of Ho Chi Minh City, and Hoa Sen University. She has held the following positions: head of the French Language Department, head of the Office Management Department, and vice president in charge of international affairs.

She has served as president of Hoa Sen University since 1996. In this role, Dr. Phuong has set in place several plans to develop the university into a sustainable institution. As a result of the process of enhancing the school’s scale and educational quality, Hoa Sen has grown from an occupational training school into a university.

Dr. Phuong considers her largest and most meaningful achievement the gathering of educators from diverse backgrounds who have dedicated their lives to education; many of them are also entrepreneurs, foreign professors, Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese), and young graduates from overseas institutions. Her research projects have focused specifically on Vietnam’s contemporary and cultural history and on the history of Vietnamese women.

Dr. Phuong’s doctoral dissertation was titled “Vietnam 1920–1945, Gender and Modernity: The Emergence of New Perceptions and Experience."

Dr. Phuong is a core faculty member for SIT Study Abroad in Vietnam. She has lectured on gender and social change for SIT students and has led interactive discussions between SIT and local students at Hoa Sen University.

Pham Quoc Loc, PhD

Dr. Pham Quoc Loc is currently serving as the dean of Culture, Languages, and Tourism at Hoa Sen University. Dr. Loc earned his PhD in comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011. His research interests include translation theories and issues of gender in cultural studies and postcolonial studies. He has taught courses on international literatures, the Vietnam War in film and literature, and translation theories both in the United States and in Vietnam. His current projects include translations of Judith Butler's Frames of War (Verso, 2009) and Edwin Gentzler's Translation and Identity in the Americas (2009). His article "Western Others and Other Westerns" appeared in the volume Re-Engendering Translation edited by Christopher Larkosh (St. Jerome, 2011).

Dr. Nguyen Luu Bao Doan

Dr. Nguyen Luu Bao Doan (Doan Nguyen) is the director of International Relations at Hoa Sen University, Ho Chi Minh City, where he also teaches in the general education program. He also serves as an adjunct instructor in the graduate program of development economics at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City (UEH). 

His areas of teaching and research include land use policies, urban economics, and innovation for inclusive development. He has published in Urban Studies, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Economic Development Quarterly, and Vietnamese Journal of Urbanism. His current project is to work with Disability Research and Capacity Development Center (DRD) IT faculty and students to develop a phone app that provides accessibility maps to people with disabilities. The project is under consideration for funding by the Universities and Councils Network on Innovation for Inclusive Development in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Nguyen obtained his doctorate in urban and regional planning and design from the University of Maryland and a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University.

Nguyen Trong Hoài, PhD

Dr. Nguyen Trong Hoài is the vice rector at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City. He is also the co-instructor for the University of Economics' case studies for policy analysis course in the summer term, for the analytical methods course in the fall term, and for development finance in the spring term. He holds a PhD and an MA in economics from the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka (Dutch–Sri Lanka Program). He also holds a BS in national economy planning from the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen Xuân Thành

Mr. Nguyen Xuân Thành is a lecturer of public policy as well as the director of public policy programs at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) in Ho Chi Minh City. In the fall semester, he teaches financial analysis and economic development; during the spring semester he teaches a course on the appraisal of development expenditures. His recent research focuses on the regulation and finance of infrastructure. Before joining FETP, Mr. Thanh spent six years at the Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Economic Research as a research fellow in local economic development. He holds a master's degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; an MSc in economics and finance from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom; and a BA in economics from the University of Delhi, India.

Le Thanh Sang, PhD

Dr. Le Thanh Sang is currently associate professor and vice director of the Southern Institute of Sustainable Development at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. He is a member of the advisory committee for the council’s Vietnam population health study of the Social Sciences Research Council of America.

His research interests are in demography, social inequality, gender, and environment impacts. Specifically, Dr. Sang has focused on urbanization, migration, social structures, policies and their effects on inequality in occupational status, income, and accessibility to education and healthcare in rural and urban areas. Since 2008, Dr. Sang has been interested in studying climate change and sustainable development.

Duong Van Ni, PhD, Lecturer at Can Tho University

Dr. Duong Van Ni is the former director of Hoa An Research Biodiversity and Community Development at Can Tho University. Dr. Ni earned his PhD at Royal Holloway College, London University, UK (2000). His field of research was wetland ecology; his dissertation was titled “Developing a practical trial for wetland ecology restoration based on biophysical and socio-economic functions of Melaleuca cajuputi at the Mekong Delta, Vietnam.” His areas of expertise include social-economic assessment, decision support systems, integrated intensive agriculture and wetland conservation, and rural development.
Dr. Ni has rich teaching and research supervision experience including in the areas of rural development and natural resources conservation.

Le Dinh Bich, Lecturer at Can Tho University

Le Dinh Bich is currently a professor at the School of Education at Can Tho University. He earned his MA in Russian, and he has been teaching cultural studies at Can Tho University since early 1990. He is a songwriter, and his research interests include traditional music of Vietnam, particurlarly Don ca Tai Tu, a southern music genre in the Mekong Delta. His areas of expertise include Southeast Asia cultural studies, religions, and music development in Vietnam.

Dana R. H. Doan, Consultant and Advisory Board Member, LIN Center for Community Development

At the LIN Center for Community Development, Dana is largely responsible for advising the leadership team on LIN’s strategic plan and fundraising efforts to support its implementation. In this role, she also serves on the advisory board of Working with Others, a small grant scheme introduced by Saigon Children’s Charity to support not-for-profit groups addressing the needs of children with disabilities.

Prior to joining LIN, Dana worked with the US-Vietnam Trade Council and Education Forum as an international trade policy analyst. In that role, she organized and facilitated technical assistance programs and bilateral meetings and events for officials representing the US and Vietnamese governments, US companies, and the international trade and aid community. From 2004 until 2009, Dana served as a member of the AmCham–United Way Vietnam Allocation Committee (in a pro bono capacity), annually evaluating grant applications by charitable organizations seeking program funds.

Before moving to Vietnam in 2001, Dana worked with the Metro Chicago Information Center as a strategy and development consultant to community development corporations, community banks, and nongovernmental organizations working to improve the quality of life in Illinois and throughout the United States. Dana also served as a business development volunteer, working with community banks, with the US Peace Corps program, working with members of community banks in Guinope, Honduras, from 1999 to 2000. She has also served as a grant evaluator at the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP) and an advisory board member at AIESEC.

Dana received a master's degree in public policy, with a focus on international economic development, from the Gerald R. Ford School at the University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree in history and Spanish from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In December 2010, she completed the NYU professional certificate program in grantmaking and foundations.

Dana is a native English speaker, fluent in Spanish, and at an intermediate level in Vietnamese.

The homestay experience has always been a challenging, yet rewarding part of the Vietnam: Culture, Social Change and Development program. It is an opportunity for SIT students to become directly immersed in a new culture by participating in household activities, interacting with homestay siblings, engaging in ongoing local development debates and discussions of daily importance, and attending traditional family ceremonies. Homestays also help SIT students learn about the significance of the family and the ongoing development processes and approaches in Vietnam while immersed in an authentic cultural context.

The program’s academic director works with experienced homestay coordinators to find the most suitable host families for each student.

Ho Chi Minh City

homestay family in VietnamStudents live with a middle-class family in Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant cosmopolitan city representing the rapid modernization of Vietnam, for four weeks. Typically the host family has at least one university student of a similar age to program participants. The homestay provides students with an excellent opportunity to practice language skills, and typically students engage with their host families in many different cultural activities, including family visits, weddings, and outdoor picnics. Homestays in Ho Chi Minh City are coordinated by the Youth Union at the University of Economics.

Many host families have multiple generations living under one roof, and students may help their host families with daily chores. Through this experience, students gain a far deeper understanding of Vietnam's increasingly complex and economically dynamic society. When possible, students are placed in homes with families that share professions and interests related to a student's Independent Study Project (ISP) topic. In many cases, the homestay family becomes an important contact for students as they explore multiple facets of cultures and development for their ISP. Many students consider the homestay experience one of the most meaningful components of the program.

Other accommodations during the program include guest houses, hostels, or small hotels.

homestay story"I had a wonderful experience during my homestay in SIT Vietnam. My homestay sister showed me around Ho Chi Minh City and brought me on adventures with her friends. We used to stay up late talking and laughing and painting our nails. My homestay brother picked me up every day from classes and told me about his life on the drive back home. My homestay parents did not speak much English, but we communicated with a few meaningful words and gestures. They helped me improve my Vietnamese. One of my favorite memories is eating dinner with them every night on the living room floor. They always made me feel welcome and appreciated. Their kindness allowed my time in Vietnam to be unforgettable."
—Susannah Parkin, Hamilton College

“I had a wonderful homestay experience and it was definitely one of my favorite aspects of the SIT Vietnam program. I stayed with a large extended family who welcomed me as one of their own. My homestay grandpa gave me motorbike rides to school every morning, and my homestay sister showed me her favorite parts of the city. We even got the chance to travel to Hoc Mon at the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, to fly kites and try a chicken hot pot dinner. Overall, the homestay experience helped me to gain a more in-depth understanding of Vietnamese culture and family life, and it allowed me to sharpen my Vietnamese language skills too! It was a rewarding learning experience and one I will never forget.”
—Alyssa Bosold, Gettysburg College

“If you were to ask a group of American students what they would expect from a few weeks living with a Vietnamese family they would likely tell you about their fears of upsetting delicate cultural practices, being confused with the language, and eating strange foods. However, what I experienced was different. The family was lovely, they were very friendly to me and conscious of my curiosities and reservations. Staying in a home of a Vietnamese family really allowed me an insider look into the private lives of ordinary people and gave me a new perspective which I could learn more from.”
—William Shlah, Southern Illinois University

Program Dates: Fall 2015

Program Start Date:  Sep 3, 2015

Program End Date:    Dec 16, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   May 15, 2015


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $14,890

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Vietnamese life and culture
    • Social transformation
  • Field Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in Vietnamese
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Mekong Delta, Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi, Sapa, and Ha Long Bay, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$2,860

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Ho Chi Minh City), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
  • All homestays (four weeks in Ho Chi Minh City)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 90

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $50

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


SIT, 1 Kipling Road, PO Box 676, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0676
802 258-3212, 888 272-7881 (Toll-free in the US), Fax: 802 258-3296 

SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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