Vietnam with Emilia Olson

The view of Lac Village, Vietnam.  We stayed with a family in the village for a week and studied rural health access in Vietnam.

After about a month of living in Hanoi, Vietnam, you just start to feel comfortable crossing the street.  Never in my life would I think that I would have to re-learn how to do something so basic, but when living halfway across the world, something as simple as walking can become the ultimate challenge!

My typical day in Hanoi starts at four in the morning when either my host family or my neighbor’s rooster starts to crow.  Even though the sun doesn’t rise until six in the morning, these animals are very enthusiastic about starting the day!  After my roommate and I get up and dressed for the day, we eat an amazing Vietnamese breakfast with our host dad around 7:30.  You know every American’s favorite Vietnamese soup Pho?  That is actually a very typical breakfast food!  

A view of Hanoi from our first few days on program.

After breakfast, I jump on the back of a motorbike, which is the most typical form of transportation in the city, and head to class.  Because I am participating in a multi-country program, our classrooms exist in a variety of settings.  In Hanoi, most of our classes took place in a local University building, although we also traveled around the city to various sites for lectures as well.  Once we arrived at class, we would spend the morning doing guest lectures, one of the four classes we were studying, or having seminars and workshops.  For lunch, we would go outside to the various street food sidewalk cafes and try a new Vietnamese dish.  Typically, the afternoon was spent conducting research for our case studies, participating in site visits to local clinics, or attending a guest lecture at a government office.  Once 5:00 pm hit, I would jump on another motorbike and head home to eat dinner with my host family.  Dinner was always an affair of trying not to embarrass myself with my chopstick skills and getting to know my host family through our challenging language barrier.  Finally, an evening spent exploring the city, working on class work, or spending quality time with my host family, it is time to go to bed and rest for the next day!

Living in Hanoi has challenged me in the best ways and also presented me with gifts I will cherish forever.  I have learned to take nothing for granted and have no expectations.  I’ve done so many things I never thought I would–eating grasshoppers and riding on the back of countless motorcycles are just the start.  I’ve navigated my way around a city with a language I have no knowledge of and made a few friends along the way.  Most importantly, I’ve joined a family I will be in touch with for decades to come and studied something I’m passionate about.  I’d say that’s a pretty eventful month!

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