UB’s First Overseas “Service-Learning” Program Set for Hanoi

Release Date: December 22, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo next spring will offer a unique "service-learning"-abroad program, one in which college students and non-students alike will live and work for one month in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital and second-largest city.

The program will run from May 23 to June 25. Participants can earn six UB credits or select the non-credit option. Program developers say this will be a "short, but intense introduction to Vietnam" best undertaken by motivated and mature students interested in learning about Vietnamese language and culture while involved in an internship program.

While a legacy of foreign occupation remains visible in the French-colonial architecture that dominates its tree-lined streets, Hanoi -- with a population of more than 3 million -- has undergone dramatic changes brought about by the economic reforms of the 1990s.

Participants will work five hours a day, Monday through Friday, with a Hanoi host organization, agency or company selected on the basis of each student's interests, skills and language proficiency. The goal of the program is to make the experience relevant, meaningful and mutually beneficial to both the intern and the organization with which he or she works.

"Service learning" is an educational concept that holds that learning is easier when it is rooted in practical experience, and that experience itself is enriched when it is linked directly to learning, in this case by bringing participants into contact with other cultures and other ways of being.

According to the tenets of service learning, living in another culture is the best way to prepare young people for the multicultural and globalized world of today and tomorrow. Students who have such experiences are better able to deal with the world of work, and tend to be more mature and more employable, says Mark Ashwill, director of the World Languages Institute (WLI) at UB, which offers Vietnamese-language instruction and developed the program in cooperation with the university's Study Abroad Programs office.

Ashwill adds that Hanoi was selected as the site for the program -- UB's first service-learning-abroad program -- not only because it is the capital of Vietnam, but because of the widespread availability of organizations and companies eager to host student interns from the U.S.

While living and working in Hanoi, participants will take a course entitled "Vietnamese Society & Culture" that will draw on lecture material in the arts, humanities and social sciences taught by faculty members of Vietnam National University (VNU), which will administer the program in cooperation with UB.

Field trips and interpersonal experiences will be integrated into the program. The VNU Department of Linguistics and Vietnamese Studies will facilitate contact and interaction between participants and Vietnamese students. VNU, the country's oldest and most prestigious institution of higher education, has a total enrollment of 30,000. President Clinton spoke to faculty and students there during his November visit to Hanoi.

Ashwill points out that although Vietnamese-language proficiency is certainly helpful, there is no language prerequisite to participate in the program. Those who do not speak the language will take lessons in colloquial Vietnamese taught by Ngoc Minh Le, the program director, a teaching assistant in the WLI and a graduate student in the UB Department of Communication.

The non-Vietnamese-speaking participants will be placed in internships with such organizations as the Institute of International Education and others where they will be valued for their English-language skills and used as cultural resources.

Ashwill says that in addition to exploring Hanoi, there will be a weekend trip to Ha Long Bay, one of the scenic wonders of the world. Since the vast majority of Vietnamese live in the countryside, participants also will take a field trip to villages on the outskirts of Hanoi.

The program is open to undergraduates and graduate students enrolled at any college or university with a minimum overall average of B-, as well as non-students, including faculty, K-12 teachers and friends of UB.

A program fee of $2,650 will cover the cost of tuition or non-credit fees, lodging, daily breakfast, field trips and administrative costs. Participants will be responsible for the round-trip airfare between New York City and Hanoi, health insurance and miscellaneous fees, plus all other meals and spending money.

For registration and further information, contact the UB Study Abroad Programs office at 716-645-3912 or studyabroad@buffalo.edu or visit its Web site at http://www.buffalo.edu/studyabroad.

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