Friday, August 9, 2013

"Poodle Noodle Soup": My Viet Nam Food Blog Adventure - by Karlana June Morgan (USFSP Mass Communication & English Lit Major)

Have you ever had the occasion to try ‘Poodle Noodle Soup’?  Well, you are in for a delightful story, whether you have or not.  I know it sounds a bit unusual and maybe even a slightly scary, but I assure you, the food ride in Vietnam is worth the experience and I invite you to tag along.  Being the official “foodie” of our study abroad group, it seemed apropos for me to share about the food experience.
Over the past three weeks, some more than others have had amazing opportunities to try new foods; whether it be an interesting fruit (lychee fruit pictured below), a vegetable, a type of meat, or seafood, we all were willing to try new flavors and brave the culture on the other side of the globe.   It didn’t take long to recognize those who were the braver ones of the bunch, in our first few days in Hanoi.  The issue sometimes was simply that we could not read the Vietnamese menu.  At which point we would simply point to a photo or walk to another table where guests were eating and point!
And there were just some differences, like sweet potatoes in Vietnam are white, whereas in America, they are orange.  A popular squash in a lot of dishes, called Winter Melon, was green and had the consistency of melon rather than squash but wasn’t sweet.  The grapefruit are twice as big as the ones in America and (I think) much better!  They are not as juicy but have a fuller, bolder flavor and are easier to peel and eat because they are less juicy.    
Spring rolls were always on the table for us to enjoy and they were ALWAYS fabulous and an explosion of yumminess in your mouth! As a matter of fact, spring rolls were such an important part of this experience that they get a separate paragraph in this blog!

One of the first places we had dinner at was an adventure just getting seating.  The restaurant was called “New West” (I believe this was the name of the establishment, but I can’t confirm for sure) the first floor was open air, and as the waiter led us through the maze of tables to a flight of stairs, it seemed as if we were headed right into the kitchen!  Instead, a narrow flight of stairs led us around to the next floor and then the next.  
I lost count, but I believe we ended up on the third floor, where they put tables together to accommodate our group.  It was loud and busy and exciting.
Our main waiter had the greatest smile that lit up his face and eyes, we couldn't resist a photo op.  

This place, the food was delicious, but not too adventurous.  The spring rolls were amazing and the sweet and sour chicken was wonderful.  The dishes all came to our table at different times - when it was cooked and ready, not all together like in America.  (Which is the way it seemed to go everywhere we went to eat).  My first food order that evening was a mango, avocado and chicken salad, but when I got it, it smelled funny, like dirty feet - maybe something in the dressing used, but needless to say, I had no desire to consume the plate of salad.  It was after lots of convincing from the group to order something else, that I chose a dish that seemed safe and ordered the sweet and sour chicken, which totally redeemed my early salad experience.
Breakfast in Hanoi was complimentary at a lovely cafe across the street from our hotel and I quickly discovered dragon fruit and an instant love for the pink and white fruit.  I know, it might seem that I am simply partial to the pink, but not so!  This fruit tastes a bit like a kiwi, it is white with hundreds of tiny black seeds and the skin is fuschia pink.  The consistency is firmer and less juicy than a kiwi and less sweet, but melts in your mouth like butter.  By far, my absolute favorite on the trip.  And to note, by the end of our time in Vietnam the rest of the bunch was loving this fruit as much as I.  

It was really only at our dinner meals that the food adventure had the most flare, and one evening we went to a nice place - well it seemed upscale - the way it was set up and in our dining room, we were required to take our shoes off at the door.  As we began to look over the menu the excitement grew quickly at some of the items we discovered.  Fried ants and crickets were ordered for everyone to try.
Ok, so I drew the line here and set a food boundary.  No ants or crickets for me.  The thought of putting them in my mouth made me gag, so I ordered a pitcher of hot green tea to start, to keep my mind occupied and it was served in a lovely little ceramic pitcher with four little mini tea cups.  
About the same time, the fried insects arrived and I again, declined the numerous offers to try the poor little creatures.  All but two of us, had crickets and ants for the appetiser that evening and the crickets were reportedly much better than the ants.  In either case, I will note that a few people felt a little under the weather the next day, bellies unhappy over something they had consumed.  Hmmmm?  Could it have been...?  
The food was always very good and artistic in its presentation at most places.  Some fruit or vegetable was always arranged or cut into the shape of a flower or transformed somehow into a beautiful floral design, which absolutely delighted and fascinated me, as an artist.  
The care that the chefs and cooks took for each dish or presentation at the breakfast buffet was impressive.
There was one essential condiment that we quickly learned about and needed it for every meal.  The chili sauce! In some areas we found that it is more spicy and in other areas, it is sweeter, but so yummy everywhere, I don’t believe one of us didn’t use it on some food, and several of us swear we will purchase a bottle at a local Vietnamese market when we return to America.  I am now a self-proclaimed chili sauce junkie, after quickly becoming addicted to the lovely smooth, spicy, sweet flavor it adds to just about everything.
A constant at every meal, was cucumber and tomato ‘salad’, either accompanying the entire meal, as a dish itself or as flare to a main dish.  It was always presented very artistically in thinly sliced pieces of tomatoes and cucumbers in a light seasoning.
The food in Ha Long Bay was also very authentic and full of flavor, but nothing really out of the comfort zone of any of us.  I did have to keep a vigilant eye and nose on the dishes to see if they had seafood in them or not.  Being that I am highly allergic to shellfish, especially, it was integral that I stay on top of the ingredients-the meat ingredients anyway-in the dishes, and shied away from all fish too.  For good measure, I did not want to experience anaphylactic shock all the way across the world.
Really, I could write an entire book about the food experience in this beautiful country, so I struggle here deciding what to write about and what to leave for later writing endeavours.  By the time we reached the central part of the country and our primary destination of Vinh City, we were learning a plethora of new tastes, some we liked, some we loved, and others we could do without experiencing again.  
Dr. Biafora warned us that the food in Vinh City would be more true to the central culture of Vietnam and that the fish sauce (a staple at every meal) would be more potent and the overall cuisine a little bit bolder.  We were pleasantly relieved when we found the food to be absolutely phenomenal and so tasty.  Dr. B was fooling us all along!  There was eel and squid and parts of the cow and chicken I had not ever been privy to prior to this journey to Vietnam.  
Dessert is not a big part of the meals in Vietnam.  We were always served fruit after the main course meals.  On one occasion when we were visiting Hue, we had a pleasant and very delicious surprise after dinner!  Fried banana crepes, with chocolate sauce drizzled on top and garnished with chopped peanuts.  What a heavenly delight that was!
One of the last nights we had dinner in Vinh City with the Vinh University students, one of the dishes served was chicken heads; I was not brave enough to stomach the beak, brain and comb of the poor chicken’s head, but several of the Vietnamese students thoroughly enjoyed this meaty obscurity.
Another dinner occurrence was related to fish.  When the fish was served whole, with head and tail, one of the Vietnamese students, Lizzie, found the eyes of the fish extra delicious; while I, on the other hand, could not stomach even watching her pop the little morsel into her mouth with chopsticks.  There were just so many dishes at every meal while we studied at Vinh University and overall, they were all very yummy and fulfilling.
The vegetables were always a hit with me and so many new greens to look for at the Vietnamese market when I get back to America.  Morning glory has been a very common dish at the meals, often served with fresh garlic and sliced red chilies.  One of my favorite greens had little green balls, part of the plant leaves or seeds and often served with sliced beef, all sauteed together.  These greens, I do not know the name, but they were scrumptious!  
Probably my favorite and a hit for the entire American group, was the banana flower salad.  Oh my goodness!  It is so good and refreshing.
Made with banana flowers, sliced spaghetti thin, in little coils of light green, shredded carrots, spicy red chilis, lemon leaves, and fresh basil and salt.  This dish is very refreshing and a lovely cool summer dish.
I would be remiss to not write about the Pho, (which is properly pronounced, fah!) and the true experience of have beef noodle soup in Vietnam, which is basically what Pho is.
The Pho pictured here, I ordered from a street vendor and got to watch her make it right before my  eyes! And she let me ‘get it to go’ with a 15,000 VND deposit for the bowl, spoon and chopsticks.  When I brought the items back the next day, she refunded me my deposit. The flavor and love that goes into this wonderful soup, that the people of Vietnam eat every morning for breakfast and often for lunch or dinner too, is beyond compare.  
Pho is made with the broth of bone marrow, from a cow, which must simmer over a long night to get all the flavor of the marrow.  The broth is the base, then fresh rice noodles are added, along with bamboo, green onions, a touch of salt, red chili peppers, fresh sliced garlic, and last, the raw sliced beef.  All this is reentered into a boiling pot of the Pho broth, to cook the meat, then removed in a matter of seconds, and garnished with fresh, crunchy bean sprouts, red chili paste, and a dash of soy sauce if you are so inclined.
Speaking of soup, are you wondering why there has been no further mention of “Poodle Noodle” soup?  Well, I am pleased to inform you that it was just a clever ploy to get you to read this blog!  As a disclaimer, I assure the readers that not one poodle (or any other kind of dog-for that matter) was consumed during our Vietnam adventure, although dog is a common fare in Northern Vietnam.  The food was definitely an experience all on its own and I am excited to get to the Vietnamese market here in town, to pick up my favorite items for my own home.  
And a special remembrance of our final bus haul from Vinh City back to Hanoi with just part of the crew.  We stopped along the way, somewhere remote on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to search for some sort of resemblance of lunch and to find a WC (Water Closet-toilet).  The assortment of edible goods we ended up with were strictly chosen by the packaging. We really had no idea what would be inside.  
There were ‘fruit pies’ that were not really all that fruity and a couple had mold.  We had ‘One-One’s’ which were rice crackers with a sweet sugary coating on top, some pretty tasty crackers and a package of what appeared to be cookies; however upon opening the product inside was nothing like the picture and moisture had seeped into the package.  The ‘cookies’ tasted like cardboard!  Literally!

Thank you Vietnam and all the beautiful people who prepared the amazing dishes we consumed in our time abroad.  And to the Vietnamese students, Mai, Nham, Lizzie, Trang, Hoai, Robinson, and Mickey; thank you all for helping us learn more about each dish, what the ingredients were and how the dishes were prepared, how to say the name of the foods in Vietnamese, and just being so attentive to all our questions over our wonderful meals together.  And a final thank you to all my fellow travellers; Ashley, Olivia, Emma, Blake, Joseph, Patrick, Prof. McCoy (aka Papa Fred), Prof Biafora (aka Dean B) and Prof Sarath, for being adventurous and willing to try this country’s cuisine and share the laughter and family experiences together!  My soul is forever changed.

Saying "Tạm Biệt" (Goodbye) to Our New Friends - by Emma Forest (USFSP, Biology Major)

July 26 2013

Our last day at Vinh University began with an air of apprehension as people prepared for their highly anticipated final presentation. We had worked on these as pairs (American and Vietnamese student) for two weeks by this point.  Students walked into the conference room with an air of both confidence and butterflies and set up for the multimedia presentations on a range of exciting topics from "Sustainable Energy Production", to "Future of the Mekon River Delta". At one magical moment during her presentation on "Buddhism:  Religion or Culture?", Ashley led students through a meditation, the room felt at ease and appreciated the moment.  At another, Blake and Robinson tossed out candy to the audience.  We appreciated that too!  And, what a surprise it was to have four of last year's study abroad students (one American and three Vietnamese) come back this year to talk with us and show their support to this year's group on our final day.
Then, to surprise the Vietnamese students, Karlana shared the American student's plan of staying in a 5-star hotel on our final night together.  The Vietnamese students had never experienced that luxury and a smile spread across each face as we anticipated the excitement of the evening.
After the final lunch across from the university, students packed up and headed for Muong Thah Song Lam Hotel in downtown Vinh. With luggage in hand, we got the keys and quickly head up to see the beautiful city view from the high rise hotel rooms. With a few hours to spare, students head down to the luxurious, oval-shaped outdoor pool 
then to the top level bar for a few final cups of Vietnamese coffee. The girls then gathered in Ashley’s room to start the beautifying process before the night. The attire for the night was the traditional Vietnamese ao dai (pronounced ow zai), which was personally tailored by a small shop-owner near the university.

The night’s festivities started with a presentation of awards: an honorary professor degree for Fred McCoy and a gift to Dr.Khoi. They graciously accepted the gifts and received a warm round of applause. Then, Professor Sarath and Dean Biafora took the microphone and began to hand out special awards to each Vietnamese student.

Every award described the special talent that every Vietnamese student brought to the program. From “Most Congenial” a.k.a. Tu Mai to “Most Likely to Make Students Laugh”, a.k.a. Trang Lee, each award fit each student perfectly. The sense of pride and camaraderie was palpable.

After the student presentations, Karlana took the microphone and gave Professor Sarath and Dean Biafora their well-deserved gift from the students, nifty Hanoi-made shopping bags, and a signed photograph of the students standing in front of 18th century temple in Hue. Both professors expressed their gratitude and returned the favor with a very special gift of authentic Vietnamese chili sauce for the students. However, one of the most memorable gifts of the night was the performance of “We are the World” by Professor Sarath and Dr. Biafora. The background music of Michael Jackson’s song started unexpectedly playing from the speakers and the students all thoroughly enjoyed the humorous performance, giving them a resounding applause.

The night of musical performances had just begun and within a few moments the Vietnamese students took the spotlight and started to perform a classic Vietnamese song and choreographed dance. After a moment or two of disorganized, scattered clapping, the room got in tune to the song and joined the merry dance. The night proceeded with a heartfelt speech of thanks and gratitude from each American student.

We all shared our thoughts and memories of the most life-changing experience most of us have faced. After we passed the microphone across the room, Karlana continued to MC, and the room was treated to several more performances from Dr. Khoi’s wife, the students from the previous Vietnam trip, and a hilarious “Mullet-rap” from Ashley. Every time someone performed the room burst into contagious applause and laughter and the warmth spread throughout the night. Before the night ended, the final performance was when all students, Vietnamese and American got up on stage and performed Michael Jackson’s “We Are The World” and the Hokey Pokey, led by Robinson for old time’s sake. Although the Vietnam trip had come to an end, a life-long friendship had begun which the closing ceremony could not end that.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Personal Reflections from 7 Fabulous Vinh University Students

Le Tu Mai

In every summer, I have my own special plan to work, to travel, to do volunteer, because it is the most suitable time for me to do whatever I want, I can get experience what is necessary for my future. I taught children in SOS children village, went to Xieng Khoang, Laos to do volunteer teaching Vietnamese, was an examiner in entrance examination...  This 2013 summer was also a great time. I had a chance to work with 2 professors and 8 students from University of South Florida in 2 weeks. I was one of 7 Vietnamese students chosen to join this interesting summer program.  After being chosen, we was very excited. We promised to try our best to complete our work.

We met each other and made friends. They were really friendly, they smiled all time. I love this.  Especially, in the first day, it is the 21st birthday of my roommate - Olivia Allan. We celebrated a surprising party for her.  From the following day, we went to class to study about history, Culture, energy,..In class, 2 professors: Dr. Frank Biafora and Sarath Witanachchi taught us a lot of things such as how to be friendly, how to be Vietnamese, what energy is, how it works, how humanity is,... The key to study is to raise questions. We were encouraged us to discuss about the lessons. It was a good study method. After class, we had meal together, talked freely and happily. The professors seemed very strick in class, but outside, they were so friendly.

Moreover, we had a lot of activities such as visiting Nguyen Du's hometown to know more about The tale of Kieu, travelling to Hue city, Quang Binh province...I was really lucky when having a chance to go to Ho Chi Minh city where I have never been with Fred McCoy and Patrick Joseph Mannion to do our project. I would like to give my deepest thanks to them. It also the first time I have been in airplane. Of course, I was so excited.

In Ho Chi Minh city, we visited Jabil factory- a hi-tech factory to know more about how a foreign businessman can manage his company in Vietnam. We saw workers making electronic components. Beside knowledge of hi-tech, workers here have to use English fluently. It was very professional.

Besides, we went around the city with a tour guide. We visited many interesting sightseeing such as Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the city post office, Independence palace, War remnant museum. Also, we ate many delicious foods in high quality restaurant and stayed in a very wonderful hotel.

Văn Thái “Robinson” Hoàng

It is great that I have a great oppotunity to live, study, and travel with students from the university of South Florida Saint Peterburgh. Initially, I am so greatly impressed by American life-style with abundant daily routines that I want to follow because of the fact that I have a tendency to accummulate newly modern things and I will know how to behave well in life. Secondly, I love the working style of American students is that they all attend the class with fabulous environment and create a lot of intereting questions relating to the lecture, so the lecture becomes more effective. I am also into the way that you (American students) organise the congenial schedules and fulfill the homework very well with logical performances of exercises and deeply critical information.... which will help all of you get high results. From that,I apprehend how to organize my own life and work  efficiently which means that I have to create  more action plans so as to do everything for living and working logically. Thirdly, traveling to fabulous places with American students has absolutely wonderful feeling : travelling to enjoy the beauty comfortably, no thinking, relaxed. I am so happy when having photos with American students for keeping as a souvernir and having nice friendship together. Moreover, the way of communication from American students is so attracted and having much pleasure, laughing, joking....In conclusion, I miss all of you and thank so much for what you have given . LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIP!
My worst thing  in this program is  my communication with all of you. Moreover, when I express my ideas, my voice is not good enough for you to hear. I am so sad for that and I thank Professor Frank and Professor Sarath so much for showing me my mistake and giving me usefully practical suggestions in order to the fact that I improve myself more. Thanks to that, I will always make great effort to do better.

Truong Huu “Mickey” Quy

Hello. It’s Mickey’s speech.

It’s my great honor to take part in this program. This is the first time I have chance to live and study with American students! They are very awesome from the very first time! They impressed me a lots because of friendly, funny, beautiful and lovely. Their appearances attracted me, K with a pink hair, Olivia with tattoo, cute Ashley, “Einstein” Joseph…. They are very special. At first, I didn’t talk too much, just ask some simple questions “How are you?” “Nice to meet you!” or “Can I help?”….May be I was shy J.

We had breakfast at Phuong Dong Hotel, while we ate, we got to know each other and we found many same hobbies. I found a way to remember their names, “Ashley” Tisdale, “Patrick” Evra, “Blake” Shelton, “Emma” Watson, “Jose”…

I met my roommate. Patrick. He’s an awesome person. We called him “Mr. Manly” or “Dr. Patrick”. He is a businessman, a guitarist and a musician. Awesome, he always makes me excited.

We have 12 days to study and live with each other. On the first day in dormitory of Vinh University, we hold a party for Olivia, a beautiful and style girl. We bought birthday cake, light it up with candles and made Olivia surprise! It was a funny night. Although we also met for a short time, we thought that we knew others hundred years ago. We laughed, used cake to fight with friends, sang together… It’s an unforgettable night.

We had chance to study with Dr. Frank and Dr. Sarath. They’re very wonderful. Sometime I’m very scare of coming to their classes, because I forgot to prepare for lessons. If they ask me a question and I can’t answer it, it will make their impressions about Vietnamese students become worse. Joining in their class, I realized that I’m not good enough to chasing my dreams in future. Sometime I can’t understand what Professors are talking about, because my English is quite weak. One more important thing, I so weak at history, even it’s my country’s history. I need to work harder, improve and challenge myself more. Thank you so much, Dr. Bi and Dr. Sarath, you gave me the motivations for my dreams.

We had chances to travel to a lot of beautiful place in Vietnam. Not only traveling, in each place, we could discover many interesting information about our country’s history. We visited Hue city, Emperor Royal Palace, Tu Duc tomb, Khai Dinh tomb. In Quang Binh province, we visited Paradise Cave, a World Heritage of Vietnam. Then we’ve been to Ho Chi Minh President’s Homeland.

On a rainy day, we came to S.O.S village of Vinh city. We sang, danced and gave gifts to lovely children in there. When we talked about our feeling after visit S.O.S village, I found that American students are very kind and love each other! I’m very touch when I see Olivia and Karlana cried because of their emotion.

There is only one day left before we have to say goodbye. I want to have more chance to work with you. I want to know more about your country, your cultures. If you ask me am I scare of anything? I will tell you that I’m scare of time. When we’re together, time passes so fast. Only one day left, and every Vietnamese students will come back to their daily life, work hard for our future. But one thing will never change in our heart, we will never forget you.

Send from “BMC” Mickey of Vietnam with heart and love.

Nguyen Thi Thuy “Lizzy” Quynh

This gonna be a best summer ever to me. I had a great great beautiful summer with lots of things that I can't imagine. The first thing makes me so happy that is I got my volunteer work for this summer. we tried to help all students to prepare for big exam to go to university. That is so much fun..

After finish this work, i got an message that i were chosen to take part in "Vinh University - University of South Florida summer program". My face just became...(down here)

yeah! i did it :)))))

So exciting for next program!!! This is the first time i live out of my house.. I can speak english all days with Foreigner and no one can look at me like I'm an Alien now =)).

The first time I saw all cute stranger that I and all people in our group went to train station for welcome them to Vinh city :). They are so America!!!! I know that you think i am crazy now (for a little bit :v) but I have to say that. Everybody have their own styles,and it's maybe different but it made me feel like they are free. I was very impressed with Karlana (K), who has a super super rock hair style. She has a pink hair and looks very like a singer name Pink. Second one that was my roommate. She is so beautiful with a blond hair, straight nose, beautiful eyes... She looks very pretty and sometimes, she looks very serious too :-/. The first time i got cute Emma, smiley Olivia, strong Joseph, handsome Blake, manly Pattrick, grand pa Fred, Powerful Dr. Frank, Kindness Dr. Sarath....

Each of them put me a special thing in my mind. I was so affair of getting fault when i live with a stranger, especially, that is a foreigner, an American. Because now i am a represent of Vinh university, furthermore, of Vietnam. If i did something wrong, not good like they expected, it would be a disaster @@. But amazing that American, they are so much funny, friendly, understanding, polite.... lots of beautiful things i can tell about them :*. Like my roommate, i thought that i know her long times ago right in the first breakfast. After the Opening ceremony, everyone got closer. We were so funny to take lots of picture with boomer :))
When i actually became a part of Program... i found some things:
·                Firstly, my english is too bad. I just can't found any word to explain my thought, my feeling. But i can practise all days. it's very good for me to speak english all times.
·                Secondly, I am have no knowledge about our great history. I just let our teacher down, our country down. I just wanna cry when Dr.B said: " Dr Khoi, I CAN'T BELIEVE IN". I knew that how he disappointed at us like that. :((( Sorry for all :(.
·                I kind of interesting with the way they eat. They take some piece of foods to their dish and eat it. Not like Vietnamese. it's show that American has so private for their food, and it can show that America has an independent in each person. 
·                My roommate love to visit my house to feel out Vietnamese life style<3 She is so cute.
·                We are always making fun together. Who says we are come from 2 different countries,have 2 different languages, that can't be a super awsome group????

We vist Hue city, in there we visited Thien Mu Pagoda, Ola palace "Dai Noi", Museum, Tu Duc Tomb and Khai Dinh tomb...And went to Thien Duong cave (paradise cave) in Quang Binh provice.  And visit SOS village anf Ho Chi Minh’s home land. Now i can know a thing about America education system that it's perfect. You know why? because we can relax and really feeling the life, the story of our destinations. And then we take a lesson about that. Study and relax go together.

Furthermore, i never ever can be happy like this with other foreigner "stranger" like that... Everybody seems so kindness. I love them... I will miss my Ms president Smith when she go :((((((

Love you guy so much, work together, eat together, do everything together....

Best summer ever with my super cute "stranger" (Ashley). Keep moving forward!!!!!

Nguyễn Thùy Trang

Hello! It's the first time I have chance to live and study with students from American! The first thing I can realize very easy that American students are very friendly. Their appearances make Vietnamese students very surprise! I love pink-hair of K. It's awesome! Even we don't know each other before, but American they make us feel comfortable and easy to talk together.

We only have 12 days live together! It's not a long time, but it's enough to give me a lot of beautiful memories! The most special memory in my heart is Olivia's 21st Birthday party! We bought a birthday cake, candies, drinks and made her surprise! Her smiley and tears are our happiness! In that night, we had a war cake! It's quite funny! We took cake and paint it in other people. We had a good start by this party, everybody find an easy way of getting to know each other!

Together, We joint in many great lessons of Dr. B- and Dr. Sarath. We had chance to broaden our knowledge, discussed about some problems of Vietnam's Society nowadays.  In this program, we had many opportunities to travel and got knowledge. The first destination is Nguyen Du's homeland. We learn about "The Tales of Kieu" in there. After that, we traveled to Hue City and visited Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue Citadel, Khai Dinh Tomb and Tu Duc Tomb. We learnt many historical things

When we came back to Quang Binh Province, we visited Paradise Cave, a beautiful Cave in Vietnam! It's really awesome like its name!  Then we got back to Vinh City and the following day, we travel to Ho Chi Minh President's Homeland.  Taking part in this program gave me opportunities to practice my English and learn many things. It will help me a lots in future! Thank you so much!

Love you, my family!

Le Van Hoai
(Senior, electronics and telecomunications,Vinh University)

5a.m at 15th July, we got up early and prepared something to welcome new friends from South Florida although I had never get up earlier than 7 am. We went to Vinh’s Train Station. While   waiting, we talked and discussed something, for example: “how do they look like?”  “how do they live?” “how do i live with them”... and we were tought some American cultures and we had to attention like “we do not touch any favorite things or space” and reminded us some knowleadge of the US by Dr Khoi, who is a careful person and we learned a lot of things from him!

First meeting in Station: We were very happy when we saw the first friend :) we were very welcome and helped everyone to take off the baggages although it was very heavy :D we saw everyone’s style was so stranger and we were so impressed on Karlana’s hair with the pink color . that was a short time but i tried to make friend with someone, i met Blake, a friendly guy, at first i couldn’t pronounce correctly his name ^^! and the others was very funny. then we came to Phuong Dong hotel to have breakfast. Where the first time get in, i went around to choose the foods and then sat around the table and made friend and introduce about each others at that time it was really hard to listen the voice from the everyone, it looked stranger with me and maybe my english was not good enogh to listen from them. and it was the most intersting breakfast i have ever had :)

A memories i will not foget that is Olivia’s birthday party we although were very tired after the dinner but i tried to make a small party to celebrate Olivia’s 21 birthday we made a surperise for her and we enjoyed the cake by very special way ^^! we had a war cake and the person had heaviest consequence that me i thought i made her very happy with the war cake :)

And many important things i learnt from the program, the students from USF is the they worked and studied maybe i was born in the different country but i think that i should learn the way student USF for my studying and working in the future. they can easyly speak out, express their ideas no shyness in class although i see they really enjoyed the party or break time but when they work or focus on studing really well and in the short time they can work out the main things they have to do in projects or home work it’s unlike vietnamese students we need a lot of time to think and write down these idea. and one more thing they can be easy to share thier own ideas with everyone vietnamese students couldn’t do that. and thank to Dr Khoi and Dr Frank gave me the chance to know more about the way american study and work and wake me up about my knowleges about our pround of my country’s history i had forget thank for all students from USF let me know more about your cultures and american. thanks so much :)

Bui Thi Nham
(Center Red Shirt)

This is the first time I work with foreigner and live the same room with them. It’s very lucky for me to join this program. It helps me discover so many exciting things I have never known. I learnt more about my country’s history, culture of American. I can also improve my speaking, listening skills. American students are very awesome, active, intelligent and beautiful. I love my roommate very much, Karlana. She gave to me a lot of gifts. This is the first time I received many gift like this. On my birthday, my friends bought something and ate together, only few gifts. It’s only 2 weeks but this is a wonderful time for me and for Vietnamese students.