Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development

“I absolutely loved every aspect of the SIT program in Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were so welcoming and would always greet me with a smile when I walked down the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. One unique aspect of this program is how I was able to see so many different facets of Vietnam from the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh city to the cultural center of Hue. Every place I traveled to let me see Vietnam in a different light and I learned how to adapt to different situations.”

-- Helen Ernyey, Tufts University

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

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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. Concurrent with this growth, the country has been wrestling with critical issues such as sustainable resource management, intense urbanization, changing family and marriage patterns, and integration with global networks and institutions.

Students in the Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development program examine these trends firsthand. Through interdisciplinary coursework, field study, and complementary educational excursions led by academic and community experts, students learn about Vietnam's history, social characteristics, and recent economic development trends.  Intensive language study, learning activities with Vietnamese peers, and a meaningful homestay further facilitate deep cultural immersion and cross-cultural learning.

Field study outside the program base is an essential component of this program. In most semesters, program participants are able to examine Vietnam's different cultural contexts and development processes in three distinct regions: Southern, Central, and Northern Vietnam. Topics for inquiry in a field-study context include:

  • Exploring a host of pressing issues caused by rapid urbanization within the context of the Doi Moi "Renovation” economic reform
  • Examining the challenges of sustainable development and current strategies for new rural development in the Mekong Delta
  • Exploring the effects of war, development, and tourism on Vietnam's rich but increasingly fragile heritage through travel to Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, the ancient streets of Hoi An, and the old imperial citadel of Hue
  • Learning about the lives of Hmong and Red Dao ethnic minority groups in the Sapa mountains
  • Studying key social issues, including internal migration, domestic violence, and community outreach toward Vietnamese living with HIV/AIDS in An Giang (Mekong Delta region), Ho Chi Minh City, or Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's commercial and cultural center, serves as the program base and is where students begin their thematic coursework, field study seminar, and language instruction. As the country's most populous metropolitan area, Ho Chi Minh City serves as an exceptional location to examine Vietnam's rapid pace of urbanization.

Learn more about living and studying in Vietnam with SIT through the words and photos of a recent alum.

"Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow Turns Waste into Energy in Vietnam" — William Shlah, recipient of the Alice Rowan Swanson fellowship reflects on his return to Vietnam. Read more.


"An Education Beyond the Norm" — Lynn Clarkson, parent of SIT Study Abroad alum Ethan Clarkson (Johns Hopkins University), shares her perspective on Ethan’s experience on SIT’s Vietnam program in fall 2012. Read more.

Alex Pill and President Jimmy Carter SIT Vietnam Alumna Presents Research on Hanoi Street Food, Meets Former President Jimmy Carter. Learn more.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Ho Chi Minh City

Language Study: Vietnamese

Prerequisites: None


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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