Humanities Learning Journey, Ho Chi Minh City
The Dunman High (Senior High) Humanities Department embarked on its inaugural overseas learning journey to Vietnam from the 18th to 23rd November 2013. 20 students from economics and history disciplines, along with 2 tutors, Mr Tan Chien Huah and Ms Linda Teo, participated in this trip which took us across the span of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The trip was a culmination of 8 months of planning by the Humanities Overseas Learning Journey Committee helmed by Ms Lim Hwee Teng, and aimed to foster socio-cultural sensitivity and deepen understanding of both historical and economic development of Vietnam.
Over the course of six days, we were exposed to a myriad range of sights which Vietnam had to offer, visiting places such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay, Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, Vietnam National University, Mekong Delta, Vinamilk Factory, Cu Chi Tunnels, and the Cao Dai Temple among many others.
Enroute to Halong City, we visited the Hong Ngoc Fine Art workshop which was established by a war veteran Mr Doan Xun Tiep who wanted to provide disabled children with the means to support themselves through the making of crafts, lacquerware and embroidery paintings. It was an eye-opening experience as we witnessed first-hand how workers with varying physical disabilities were able to create high-quality art pieces. It gave us much food for thought over the nature of social entrepreneurship in a third world country, and how we should readjust our lenses in the way we view community involvement programmes back in Singapore.
An undoubted highlight of the trip was the War Crime Museum, which at first glance, provided a macabre and revisionist display of war-time atrocities from the perspective of the Vietnamese during the First and Second Indochinese Wars (1945 – 1975). However, with the aid of invaluable insights provided by our local guide, the students were able to look past the grotesque artifacts and representation of war-time violence and understand how the Vietnamese authorities regarded the Indochinese Wars as an important element of the nation-building narrative. Furthermore, it also gave us an insight into the quiet determination and resilience of the Vietnamese to emerge from the shadows of war and forge a brighter future for themselves.
On top of that, we were given an insight into the fruits of economic liberalization of the previously centrally-planned economy of Vietnam during our visit to the Vinamilk factory. The students were able to observe the manifestation of economic concepts during this visit, such as internal economies of scale and product differentiation. Being able to witness the theoretical economic concepts taught in school being applied to a real-life situation was a fulfilling experience for the students and definitely helped to enhance their understanding of these concepts.
All in all, students were thoroughly engaged as they gained insights into the cultural, economic, historical and even academic aspects of Vietnam in this short but intense trip. The evening debrief sessions which were facilitated by different teams of students were invaluable in allowing everyone to recap and internalize the salient learning points for every site visited. Furthermore, the nuggets of trivia and information provided by our two local Vietnamese guides kept us engaged throughout the long bus journeys between locations, not to mention the rousing rendition of a ‘Ho Chi Minh’ song by one of our local guides on the final day of our journey which neatly captured the poignant and bittersweet emotions of every participant as we headed for home.
Mr Tan Chien Huah (History)
“This trip to Vietnam has definitely opened my eyes to the different culture of Vietnam and also helped in my understanding of important Economic concepts. One of the places of visit was to a ceramics workshop in Hanoi. In the workshop, we were introduced to the different processes of making ceramic plates, vases and cups…In addition, we also learned that this workshop is only one of the many ceramic workshops in the area. By building the workshops in the same area, the workshops are able to save on advertising costs by the reputation gained for being a ‘ceramic village’. This was a real-life example of having external economies of concentration, as we learnt in Economics. It was definitely interesting to be able to see an economics concept get applied in the production of pottery. “
13Y5C42 Carissa Fok
“I’ve learnt a lot about the Vietnamese culture through the traditional water puppet show, which depicted the daily lives of traditional Vietnamese. We were also awed by the live music accompaniment. Through interaction with the performers, we found out that they had practiced hard for a really long time in order to put up such a wonderful performance for the audiences. Also, we got to learn more about the history and culture of Vietnam through places such as the Temple of Literature and Cao Dai Temple, where we even got to attend the noon mass in the Cao Dai Temple.“
13Y5C34 Zhao Yifei
“As an economics student, I was very excited to see how I could apply the different economic concepts that I learnt in school during this trip. We visited many factories such as the Vinamilk factory, Dong Trieu Ceramic Workshop and a coconut factory in a small village. These factories were different in their size and use of machines. I could see the different economic concepts through these factories and also the different stages of development of factories. This helped me understand the economics concepts better and also provided me with real life examples of how the use of economics is important to a firm.“
13Y5C42 Amelia Tan Rui Ying
“Through this Vietnam trip, I gained a new and interesting experience at the Cu Chi Tunnels. I enjoyed visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels and entering their underground tunnels. I guess it was a first time experience for many of us but it was definitely a refreshing one. This experience allowed me to imagine how it would have been like during the Vietnam War for the Vietnamese and how they had to live. I think it also served as a reminder for me not to take the peace and life we have now for granted, for I am sure I would not want to go through what the Vietnamese had gone through during the war.”
13Y5C42 Chi Zi Han