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Vietnam Hospitality tour: A student’s perspective

Study tour group

By Natalie Carri

Deaf Cafe “Reaching Out”

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Paul Strickland for providing me with the opportunity to participate in the 2017 Vietnam study tour and campaigning for me to be one of the Recipients of the New Colombo Mobility grant. I would like to also acknowledge Monica Hodgkinson and the Equality and Diversity Centre for providing me with Celeste & Jasmine who were my interpreters for the entire duration of the tour and guided me throughout. I owe a deep sense of gratitude to Paul for campaigning for me to be fully supported by the qualified AUSLAN interpreters. I was fortunate to have shared this unforgettable experience with a great group of students. I am proud to have been the first deaf La Trobe Uni Student who went on this Study Tour and thank you for believing in me to help me achieve this once in a lifetime opportunity which truly was a morale booster for me.

I’ve always been challenged throughout my entire schooling life, but it’s always humbling to know that La Trobe University prides itself on supporting students with disabilities to help overcome the some of the barriers they are faced with. I have consistently been dedicated to bettering myself throughout my schooling and being a part of this experience has helped promote self growth and has pushed me both academically and socially.When I found out about the Vietnam study tour, I was interested from the very first moment as I knew it was going to be a valuable learning experience for me. I am immensely grateful that I was accompanied to Vietnam with such experienced staff members and if I wasn’t given this opportunity by the University, I don’t think I would’ve ever ventured to Vietnam on my own. This study tour gave me the opportunity to explore Vietnam and its beautiful surroundings with such a welcoming group of students with whom I have developed close friendships with. Sharing this experience helped connect us through those testing moments where we all felt home sick, frustrated with the humidity/heat or longing for a home cooked meal. This study tour offered the chance to be exposed to the hustle and bustle of city congestion, sample signature Vietnamese delicacies, enjoy popular street food, visit War battlefields that were used during the Vietnam War, participate in authentic cooking classes and participate in guided tours of historical temples and iconic landmarks throughout the beautiful towns of Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and UNESCO World Heritage Ha Long Bay. This was a valuable learning experience and by being immersed in the culture gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of Vietnam. Everywhere we visited we were always greeted with a warm, welcoming friendly smile from the locals and our three tour guides were always keen to share many informative stories with us.

Thanks to ‘Reaching out’, I got to meet some amazing deaf Vietnamese locals. This was by far one of the most rewarding encounters. I was fortunate enough to visit a Deaf Cafe known as the ‘Reaching Out Teahouse’ which is run & managed by hearing & speech impaired people. The Teahouse is also an art & craft shop which practises in accordance to The Fair Trade principles & helps support people with disabilities and integrate them into the community. Although I found this to be a wonderful cultural experience, it proved challenging not to be able to communicate because AUSLAN differs greatly to the Vietnamese sign language. However, with patience and perseverance, we were able to overcome this by communicating with each other through the use of gestures and mime. I was inspired by the set up and felt that we could learn from The Reaching Out Cafe, and apply some of its principles to the already existing Trade Block Cafe located in St Kilda, VCD (Victorian College for the Deaf) which is run by deaf VCAL students.

I have learnt a lot about myself from this trip as it has allowed me to open my mind and embrace opportunities that require me to take more risks. I have gained so much knowledge through this experience and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of not allowing my disability hinder such an opportunity. Having Celeste and Jasmine, the two amazing interpreters interpret for me during this trip, ensured that I didn’t miss out on any details or information and I was privileged to have been given this wonderful support and funding.

This study tour will stay with me for years to come and has opened doors to new possibilities by being immersed in a culture so diverse to mine. The two weeks that I spent on the study tour helped me acquire greater knowledge of Vietnam’s rich history and culture and I felt that my independence and confidence grew and strengthened during this trip. Receiving this has definitely motivated me and I look forward to giving back to the community beyond my studies. I would highly recommend this enriching experience to all students at the University and in particularly encourage deaf students to broaden their knowledge to embrace a new culture and diverse experiences if given the chance.

 

Tourism and Hospitality International Study Program – THS3ISP – Study Tour to Vietnam

Students from Hanu, Bundoora and Bendigo campuses

by Paul Strickland

The recipients of the New Colombo Mobility Grant meeting with General Manager of Vinh Hung Resorts, Mr Han. L-R: Paul Strickland, Scott Dickson, Taila Howden, Mr Han, Loren Mosetter, Simon Jacobs, Monica Hodgkinson, Sarah Cook

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.

LBS Tourism and Hospitality International Study Program (THS3ISP) to Vietnam.

Imperial City
On 27th June 2016, LBS’s Paul Strickland and Tanya Thornton accompanied twenty one students studying either a Bachelor of Business (Tourism and Hospitality), Bachelor of Business (Event Management) or Bachelor of Business (Event Management/Marketing) from Bundoora and Bendigo campuses for a 14 days study program in Vietnam.

The Tourism and Hospitality International Study Program subject was designed to highlight tourism, hospitality and event related activities, including a range of different dining and gastronomic experiences, various levels of accommodation standards, tourism activities for westerners and the legacy of war. The entire program included breakfast, lunch and dinner daily in a variety of dining environments including set menu, buffet and cooking classes. Sampling all the delicious local cuisine was one of the highlights of the tour.

Commencing our program in Hanoi, lectures took place at Hanoi (Hanu) University where local students studying LTU programs joined in one-on-one discussions. After city tours, rickshaw rides and a water puppet show, we travelled by bus to the World Heritage listed Ha Long Bay for an unforgettable two day stay on a large 28 cabin boat which we had all to ourselves. Students were able to swim, play volleyball, explore limestone caves and kayak in amazing scenery. The itinerary took us to three other cities including Hue, Hoi-An and Hoi Chi Minh City where we soaked up the sunshine with glorious tours of temples, beautiful heritage architecture, solemn war museums and Australian battlefields.

There are simply too many student activities to list, but the program also encompassed many charity restaurants which aim to help street kids train in hospitality and better their lives. We celebrated two birthdays while we were away, singing Karaoke and dancing at a Sky bar, and we relaxed in a resort pool, but to know the rest you’d have to come along and experience it for yourself. Student feedback after the trip; ‘10/10’, ‘wouldn’t change a thing’ and ‘a much better way to learn’…. however, these comments were made before three more assessment tasks were due!

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