Why Vietnam and the RMIT?
It was clear to me from the start that I would like to spend my semester abroad in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, the partner universities of the Koblenz University of Applied Sciences in this region did not agree, so it quickly became clear to me that I would go abroad as a free mover and choose the university of my choice myself. During a lecture at the Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, I became aware of the MicroEDU agency. On the website I discovered several Australian universities that have campuses in Southeast Asia, including the RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The RMIT is an Australian university with the Main location in Melbourne and with two locations in Vietnam, in Hanoi (north) and Ho Chi Minh City (south). The idea of studying in Vietnam with Australian standards and only English lectures appealed to me very much. I had also never been to Vietnam before and I was very interested in the country. Many students go to Bangkok or Phuket in Thailand for a semester abroad, but Vietnam is still a lot more original and exotic, which I saw as a challenge. So in the end I decided to go to Vietnam for a semester.
The application process was very easy thanks to MicroEDU. I received the necessary forms from MicroEDU by email, filled them out and returned them with my letter of motivation. The confirmation came quite late, but this is due to the RMIT International University Vietnam, also known as RIUV by AbbreviationFinder. All exchange students had to wait a long time for confirmation, which was a bit inconvenient because I had to book my flight at very short notice. In the end everything worked out fine!
Arrival to HCMC
On February 10th, 2017, I started in the early evening from Nuremberg Airport in the direction of Vietnam. With Turkish Airlines I first flew to Istanbul and then on to Ho Chi Minh City. My Buddy Vy picked me up at the airport. At the RMIT International University Vietnam, there is the so-called ” Buddy Program “, which consists of Vietnamese students who take care of the international students throughout the semester. Each exchange student is assigned a buddy who picks you up from the airport, supports you with the purchase of a Vietnamese SIM card, translates in certain cases and is generally open to all questions. Together with Vy, I first drove to my hotel and put my luggage in my room. Then it went on by taxi to my first dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant. Incidentally, the taxi costs on the first day are completely covered by the university.
For the first week I had booked a cheap hotel near the university. Although there is a student dormitory directly on campus, there are hardly any international students living there. However, if you want to come into contact with many Vietnamese and want to save yourself the stress of looking for an apartment / flat share on site, you can certainly live well there. However, there are very strict house rules. Boys and girls are strictly separated and are not allowed to visit each other in their areas of the dormitory, external visitors are not allowed in the rooms and you have to let them know before going on a longer trip. Most international students share a flat share on site. The RMIT and the buddy team support you in the search for suitable apartments and arrange brokers. A buddy is also present when the rental agreement is signed so that everything runs smoothly. On my second day in Saigon, I found other roommates and a super furnished apartment. For around € 240 rent plus electricity / gas and television per room, the five of us had a 150 m² apartment over two floors with four bathrooms and a huge living room with a large open kitchen. A special highlight was the large chandelier (Vietnamese people like chandeliers) and the golden wallpaper. The apartment was on the 27th floor in a complex of four high-rise buildings. There was 24 hour security service, one very large community pool and several cafes and supermarkets on the doorstep. However, I have to admit that we had by far the most beautiful apartment. The other apartments of the exchange students were also large and some had a huge roof terrace, but not in the best condition. Most of the time the apartments were sparsely furnished and often something broke, which was then quickly but half-heartedly repaired. Cockroaches are also comparable to ants in Vietnam and can often be found in apartments. But all of this is part of Vietnam and if you want to live there for a semester, you have to get involved.
Start of studies
At the beginning of the course, the university and the buddy team organized several events to get to know each other. In the week before the lecture there was an event at which all international students were greeted, important things were explained and games were played to get to know each other. There were also several small shows by Vietnamese students. Afterwards there was a greeting for all new students and the timetable software and email distribution list, as well as the library, were explained. In addition, there was a Vietnamese cooking course and a city tour with small tasks during the week. After the city tour, the RMIT invited all international students to dinner in a very nice restaurant. Everyone in charge at the university tried very hard to make the start of the semester as smooth as possible. In the week before the lectures, you could then put together the timetable. I arranged my lectures in such a way that I only had to go to university from Monday to Wednesday. Most exchange students have tried to keep a long weekend free. In addition, the buddy team organized a weekly language and culture course, which was highly recommended. The most popular means of transport to the university were with “Uber Motorbike” or “Grab Motorbike” (the Asian version of Uber), but some students have rented a scooter for several months. When renting a scooter, however, you are in a legal gray area, as you need a Vietnamese driver’s license to drive and this can only be done in the Vietnamese language. As a result, you drive without a valid driver’s license, but Vietnamese police officers are easy to bribe. In the introductory event, you will even be shown how to bribe police officers properly and other little tricks on how to avoid a fine, which is totally normal in Vietnam.
All lectures at RMIT are held in English and the lecturers come from all over the world. The number of students per lecture is no more than 30 students, with attendance steadily decreasing from the first week onwards, as the Vietnamese are very fond of truancy. There are countless courses to choose from, of which I have chosen four. In all courses one clearly saw the differences between Western and Asian learning methods. Almost all homework / presentations had to be done in the group, which I personally did not find so good. In the case of the Vietnamese, even the smallest decisions are made collectively which was quite exhausting in the long run. But that too is part of the cultural difference and you just have to get involved. My first course was ” New Media New Asia ” which was an elective for communication students. My lecturer was a very intelligent American who was very experienced in matters of media, but who had very high standards. The course included weekly “Reading Reflections” on very long and demanding factual texts, a presentation in the team and a term paper. In terms of content, media basics were dealt with and explained using Asian case studies. However, I would not recommend the course to others because it takes too much time and was also very demanding. I also took the course “In terms of content, you learn the basics of Microsoft Excel, Access and writing business emails. During the semester there were three smaller tests and a large exam at the end. I can recommend the course because it was very interesting and above all important for working life Furthermore, I took ” Marketing for Fashion and Textiles “, in which the basics of marketing models were explained. The course was basically a mixture of “Case Studies” and “Marketing Communications”, whereby all the case studies discussed had to do with the fashion world. Two assignments in the group and a presentation were graded. I can definitely recommend this course to people who are interested in fashion. My last course was “”, which was by far the most interesting course. In terms of content, the main focus was on how companies can expand internationally and how the HR department can send employees abroad Semester.
Leisure activities in and around HCMC
Ho Chi Minh City offers countless recreational opportunities. There are two huge shopping centers with numerous restaurants, shops and cinemas in District 7 (the district in which the RMIT is and also most of the international students lived). In District 1 there are attractions such as the Ben Tanh Market, where you can buy anything and of course there are many shops and restaurants in District 1 (often with a rooftop terrace). There is also a very cool water park, hipster flea markets and several interesting museums and art exhibitions.
The RMIT also offers free fitness courses in your own fitness studio and otherwise you can join many groups (drama group, music group etc. ) and for little money there is also the possibility of taking sports courses such as MMA, football, Frisbee or judo.
In the evening they drove to the city center (District 1) to celebrate. In the party street “Bui Vien” there are countless bars and clubs, but they are overcrowded with backpackers. But a bit away from the backpacker district there are also very cool clubs, such as Piu Piu, where mainly expats and Vietnamese party. The nightlife in HCMC in general is very lively and if you still don’t want to go home after the club has closed, you have the opportunity to continue partying in after-club parties.
Another highlight in HCMC is the incredibly good food. The best part is that you can eat delicious food for around € 1. You definitely have to try the street food, even if it takes a bit of effort to eat in shabby streets at the beginning, but it’s worth it! In general, I almost never cooked because it was cheaper and better to order something yourself or to go to the nearest restaurant / snack bar on the corner. The food at the university is also delicious, especially the banh mis (Vietnamese baguettes).
If you want to make a little weekend getaway from HCMC, you should definitely see the Chu Chi tunnels. These are about 2 hours by bus from the city and a historical must for every Westerner in Vietnam. You can also take the bus (approx. 3 hours) to the Mekong Delta drive, or you drive to the nearest beach from the city (approx. 1. 5 hours).
Since Saigon is located in the center of Southeast Asia, you can travel well from there, both by plane and by bus. In the second week, all international students went to Mui Ne together. Mui Ne is a fishing village directly 200 km north of HCMC, which is mainly known for kitesurfing and the wild nightlife. During the semester I also flew to George Town in Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur, as well as to Hong Kong. But if you are ever in Vietnam, you should definitely visit the country! Together with nine other exchange students I drove to Phu Quoc (about 3 days) by scooter and ferry and later to Dalat again (about 2 days). Both trips are mine absolute highlights! Another weekend I flew to Hoi An, a super cute town in the middle of Vietnam. I can also highly recommend Hoi An!
After the end of the semester, I traveled to the north of Vietnam (Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay) with other students. Then it went on to Myanmar, Thailand, one more day to HCMC and then on for three days to Beijing. From Beijing I flew back to Munich via Moscow.
Evaluation of the host school
I can definitely recommend a semester at RMIT Vietnam. Everyone at the university tried very hard to make the semester as nice and smooth as possible. The exchange students are looked after very well. There is even an RMIT employee who was only responsible for the international students and was always available. Most of the lecturers are very competent, although the Vietnamese lecturers sometimes lacked the English. I also had the feeling that exchange students were rated more strictly than local students. The university itself is super modern and well equipped. I also found the two doctors very goodwhich only had a small practice for students on campus.
Tips / hints
Tips I would have for international students at RMIT / in Vietnam:
- Studies at RMIT are divided into trimesters. If possible, try to attend RMIT in the first trimester (start in February) or in the third trimester (start in October) as there are many international students attending these trimesters. There are hardly any exchange students in trimester 2 (start in June) and the rainy season begins.
- Try to travel as much as possible before the fifth week of university, as there is hardly any housework until then. From the fifth week onwards, studying becomes more stressful
- Be careful with open alcohol, such as cocktails or long drinks, as these tend to be stretched with methanol from a certain time at night. You have to be careful, especially in party locations like Mui Ne. Better to use bottled beer.
- Do not use scooter taxis, as they charge too high a price and just want to rip you off. Better to order a motorcyclist from Uber or Grab.
- Avoid highways and large country roads with scooters, as the trucks drive like crazy people. It is better to take a detour via a smaller road. So you can also discover the rural areas.
- My last tip: be adventurous and get involved in the country. The Vietnamese are super warm and helpful people. Learn two or three words in Vietnamese and the locals will love you. And be sure to try the street food! Vietnam is famous for street food and if you haven’t eaten street food in Vietnam, you’ve definitely missed something!
Finally, I would like to say that I had the best semester of my life, if not the best half year, and I can definitely recommend it!