Two weeks ago the semester started in Hoi An and time has passed by really quickly since. This semester, about 90 students attend the courses “Psychology” and “Development Studies” – a lot of new faces. Therefore, the first days were used to get to know each others by splitting up in smaller groups and doing games on the beach. Furthermore, Mr. Vinh, our Vietnamese field manager, organized a boat tour and we were able to see Hoi An’s wonderful river view and its backwaters. On our first weekend in Vietnam Kulturstudier organized a welcome party at the Study Center. We had traditional Vietnamese food, gathered around a bonfire, danced at the beach and had a great time.

Two weeks later we have already found a daily routine to combine studying and all the amazing possibilities that Vietnam in general and Hoi An in special offer. In the morning, we have lectures and seminars at the University of Hoi An until lunch-time. Then most students take the bike to the study center at the beach. There lunch is served (a mixture of Vietnamese and Western food) and twice a week we also have seminars in the afternoon at the study center. That is basically the core of our daily life in Hoi An.

The afternoons are free and there is time to go out to have dinner, do the readings for the next day, sports, karaoke or explore the city and Vietnamese nightlife. Furthermore, Hoi An is known as the city of tailors and there are many tailor shops that can dress you from head to toe. Choosing cloths in a tailor shop can be quite a challenge in the beginning, but after a few times you will get a good routine in choosing fancy material, a nice cut and be able to bargain hard for your prices.

Bargaining, by the way, is essential here in Vietnam and hard business. A rule of thumb: You should never accept the first price or believe it is the price the locals would pay. It is important to stay friendly but strict on the price you want to pay. If you don’t get the price you wanted, go away – that can change the vendor’s mind immediately.

Of course it helps to speak a few words in Vietnamese in order to get better prices on the market and especially to get in touch with the locals. Unfortunately, Vietnamese is not an easy language but there is the possibility to have classes twice a week at the University with an lovely and extremely helpful teacher.  It’s best to work together on your pronunciation and Vietnamese people are more than glad to help you and will respect you for trying. Nevertheless, you should expect some smiles and funny comments – “Good night” and “stupid” have a pronunciation too close to each other for a Westerner not to make the mistake.

There are several ways to fill your weekend. Hoi An not only offers beautiful architecture and a lively market but also a dive point where you can do your diver’s license. Furthermore, we students meet to play basketball or football, swim at the beach, chat in a local café or go climbing at the Marble Mountains close to Hoi An. Moreover, there is a very active nightlife with several bars where you can enjoy fresh and delicious Vietnamese beer and have parties with other students, locals and tourists on their way through Vietnam. There are so many things to see and to explore that you will hardly have time to get homesick in Hoi An. And in the very unlikely case that you really miss home – there’s plenty of Western food around and rumors say also a Norwegian cook in one of the restaurants.

But of course you don’t have to stay in Hoi An on the weekends. Vietnam is a big and beatiful country that offers a variety of activities. On Sunday, we students went to Danang, the third biggest city of Vietnam and only a 30 minutes bus ride away. Here you can go shopping and – insider tip – enjoy the best Vietnamese coffee at Long Coffee and eat warm and fresh Rooti at Papa Rooti. This time we went to Danang to watch the V-League football match between Danang and Hanoi. Danang is not a touristy city and therefore our support for the local team came as a surprise for the Danang fans. We were warmly welcomed and sang, cheered and celebrated with the Vietnamese supporters. Luckily “our” Danang won and we could see that emotions regarding football are the same worldwide. Afterward, the Kulturstudier fangroup enjoyed local Vietnamese food in a restaurant before we went back home to Hoi An.

This weekend, we have a field trip to a minority village approximately two hours away from Hoi An. There are 54 minorities living in Vietnam and we hope to learn more about their daily lives and especially more insights regarding development studies.

I’ll keep you updated.

Best regards from lovely Hoi An,