Australian university students flourish in inaugural Vietnam immersion program

Ten Australian university students recently participated in an intensive three-week study tour to Vietnam as part of the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) Scholars in Asia project.

The inaugural 2016 IRU tour was funded by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP) initiative.

It gave students from Griffith University, Murdoch University and Flinders University, who had little or no previous experience of Vietnam, the opportunity to explore important existing and potential business, political and cultural linkages between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Australia.

“I have always been especially interested in Asia, and the opportunity to study in Vietnam and immerse myself in Vietnamese culture was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, particularly as a mature-age student,” said Griffith Business School Asian Studies student, Lauren Harvey

“I also had the chance to further my understandings in Australian policy in Southeast Asia, in particular furthering my understanding of the contemporary and historical issues facing Australian foreign policy and foreign relations in Vietnam,” she said.

The tour involved a series of cultural experiences, field trips and lectures designed to increase student’s understanding and appreciation of the intercultural and business issues associated with establishing a cooperative start-up venture within an Australasian context.

Additionally, the tour acted as a social springboard through which the students could academically and professionally network with fellow Australian and Vietnamese students, international scholars, prominent industry representatives and eminent government officials.

Especially valuable to the students’ education and network development were the various lectures on economic theory and practice from Vietnam’s Foreign Trade University and Ministry of Planning and Investment, a Q and A session with executives from Microsoft Vietnam and the Young Businesspeople Association, and a meeting with the Head of a Commune People’s Committee.

Other tour activities included rural engagement excursions with Tay, Red Dao, Xafo and Khmer ethnic minority groups; a homestay with a rural community leader and his family, a day’s trek from Sapa; and visits to various significant cultural and historical sites in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – including the Vietnamese Women’s Museum and War Remnants Museum.

All of the students believe that the IRU Scholars in Asia and NCP initiatives have significantly improved their employment prospects both at home and in international contexts, particularly by increasing their personal and professional networks.

“The dynamism, ambition and exuberance of the Vietnamese people has convinced me that strong relationships can and should be formed between Australia and Vietnam. I am personally excited to explore the abundance of opportunities now open to me because of the connections I’ve made on this tour,” said Cassandra Day who is also studying an Asian Studies degree at Griffith.

The academic studies and scholarly development of each student has also been enriched far beyond what is available in a classroom. Having the ability to solidify theoretical learning in real world situations greatly enhances a student’s ability to remember information and think critically.

“I am so humbled to have been given the opportunity to broaden my existing knowledge of Vietnamese history, politics, and culture, especially in an academic environment,” said Government and International Relations student, Claire Fitzpatrick.

“The ability to immerse myself and engage with the Vietnamese people, and their culture, has given me real-world experiences that have bettered me not just as a writer and academic, but also a person.”

Overall, the IRU Scholars in Asia initiative aims to increase the number of Australians proactively engaging with Asia, and generally facilitate the greater NCP goal of creating sustainable, productive and amiable relationships throughout the Asia region.

“This tour offered us more than just academic credit and an authentic international experience, it gave us the opportunity to engage deeply and directly with our regional neighbour Vietnam – with whom we have such a strong history and a bright future with,” said Communications student, Natasha Hoppner.

“Our academic, practical and professional abilities have been strengthened and our imaginations inspired with thoughts of Asia and the opportunities that international business holds for our future.”

Engineering and Science student Samuel Bolland highlighted the learning and discovery experience that a firsthand exposure to Vietnam brought, with the thoughtful guidance of Dr Catherine Burns, a lecturer at the Department of International Business and Asian Studies.

“With the chance to question local professionals this study tour has given us a deeper understanding of the country and its economic landscape than we ever could have gained from home,” he said.

Tour Duration: 11 January 2016 – 28 January 2016


  • Hanoi
  • Hoa Binh province
  • Lao Cai
  • Ban Ho Valley (Sapa)
  • Thanh Phu Village
  • Sin Chai Village
  • My Son Village
  • Nam Toong Village
  • Halong Bay
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Mekong Delta
  • Khmer Village

Local Tour Guides: Buffalo Tours: Nguyen Dang Tinh (Hanoi); Dom Tak (Ho Chi Minh City)