by Paul Strickland
Paul Strickland and Monica Hodgkinson led a delegation of twenty-one tourism, hospitality and event management students and staff from Bundoora and Bendigo campuses to Vietnam for a two-week study tour in June/July 2017. This annual program included two Auslan translators to accompany Natalie Carrie, a profoundly deaf student that was a first for La Trobe. Support and funding was obtained from Vicdeaf, La Trobe University Equity and Diversity (thank you Sally Freeman) and La Trobe Business School. Additionally, five students were fully funded by New Colombo Mobility grants of $3000.00 each and $1500 for staff that aims to bridge the gap in trade between Australia and South-East Asia.
The objective of the study tour was to examine and observe the cultural, social and environment aspects as a tourist, the impacts of government policy and the legacy of war. Students were strongly encouraged to try all pre-ordered food, partake in cooking classes, meet high level management and fully immerse themselves in the culture. Vietnam has a very ‘dark’ history due to its strategic location between China and western societies therefore is an ideal case study for political, cultural and touristic examination.
The assessment tasks include a case study relating to war and ethics, a daily reflective journal, a formal report evaluating the differences between the hotel and restaurant standards of Australia and Vietnam and a group presentation based on photo journal on a given topic. The study tour includes all flights, accommodation, three meals daily, activities, entrance fees, bottled water, buses, guides, drivers, footmen, and tips for approximately $2800.00.
The study tour started in Melbourne and continued to Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hoi An, Hue, Halong Bay and Hanoi. The tour visited Hanu (Hanoi University) and where we met with eleven local students studying at La Trobe University who live on campus. Conversations focused on the differences between Bundoora, Bendigo and Hanu campus life. We also had site visits at local resorts, restaurants and a private ceremony for the fallen Vietnamese and Australian soldiers on the original battlefield.
The evaluation forms are extremely positive and students have indicated a willingness to be ambassadors for La Trobe and their courses at Open Days, in classrooms and other promotional opportunities. Although it is a very full itinerary and extremely tiring towards the end, feedback included ‘it has helped me with my tourism and hospitality related studies’ and ‘so many great sites/places visited and amazing food in all restaurants’ and finally, ‘10/10’.
It was recently announced that this tourism and hospitality international study program has secured a further ten New Colombo Mobility grants of $3000.00 each and $3000.00 for teaching staff totally $33,000 to travel to Vietnam in 2018. We have added Van Lang University on the itinerary for a site tour and presentation in their department of tourism plus a NGO to see the impact of charity work. Having government funded support through student grants makes it possible for low-socio economic and high performing academic students have an opportunity to participate which we wholeheartedly welcome.