SandraSandra @ VGU

Sandra is studying Mathematics (major) and Mechanical Engineering (minor) at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, finishing her Bachelor's studies just recently. Following her passion for Southeast Asia she started her Master's studies with an adventurous semester abroad at the CompEng sister course offered at the Vietnamese-German-University (VGU) in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Her stay at VGU in the frame of the CompEng program gave her the chance to specifically focus on her specialized subject: Applied Mechanics. When she returned from her trip in late July, she sure had a lot of interesting experiences to share. But read for yourself...

"Three years ago I had been in Cambodia for five weeks, where I was directly taken with the life in Southeast Asia. When I got the opportunity to study in Vietnam at a university with German professors, the decision was made: I’m going to Vietnam!
Luckily the lectures didn’t start immediately, so I had time to get used to the life in Vietnam and to find a few new friends. In this aspect the Vietnamese made it really easy for me. All of them were very friendly and could quickly be inspired for common activities such as badminton, swimming or even short trips to Saigon and neighbouring places. For this reason, I could experience the excitement of life in Ho Chi Minh City, with it’s chaotic traffic and it’s rich architecture, admired the beautiful beaches of Vung Tau and drove on a boat through the mangrove forests of "Monkey Iceland "(Can Gio) just after a few weeks.
Moreover study life at the Vietnamese-German University has also provided some positive impressions. The atmosphere in the rather small classes is more familiar than in Germany. Everyone knows everyone and all students seem to like each other. The exercise group leader takes his lunch together with the students and tells stories of everyday life at the university.
In the afternoon the sport center, which is located near the university, gives many recreational opportunities, such as a gym and a swimming pool. The ones, who rather like to do sport outside, can go jogging around the lake in the park 500 meters away from the sports center.

During two weeks of my stay abroad I explored the north of Vietnam. This of course, includes a visit of the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. The former President of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh (fondly called Uncle Ho by the Vietnamese), who is admired as a national hero in Vietnam, rests in an imposing mausoleum.
My destinations to the North Vietnam also included a visit to the very popular Halong Bay. This is a collection of hundreds of small islands near the Vietnamese coast, with steep cliffs which rise out of the water partially covered with plants. Even out of season one can see a high number of boats sailing for the individual stations of the tour, including the visit of a cave, a floating village and a short canoe ride.
Another interesting place located in the north of Vietnam is the so called dry Halong Bay near Ninh Binh. Here I visited an impressive pagoda (Bich Dong Pagoda), which was partly built in the caves of a mountain, on whose summit I had a view over the breathtaking landscape of the dry Halong Bay.

All in all I can say that the time in Vietnam was a great experience. The initial concerns you have before a trip like this because of the language, the new environment and the new classmates proved to be completely unfounded. Finally, I've learned to appreciate the advantages of both countries Vietnam and Germany. In Vietnam, for example, one has a huge range of small street cafes and there is always something going on in the streets in contrast to Germany, where you can enjoy a peaceful walk without honking motorbikes.  
Even in everyday university life, the two countries have their merits. It is easier to concentrate on the lecture in the small classes in Vietnam than in the huge lecture halls in Germany. However, if you would rather sit in the back row and enjoy the anonymity of a full lecture hall, Vietnam could have its difficulties.  
In a nutshell, I like remembering my time in Vietnam. Of course, I mostly think back to the great people there and the trips that I have made with them. Besides, I also miss some simple things like the food or walking in flip flops.
The almost four months finally went by a lot faster than I thought. I hope I’ll have the chance to make such a journey and to gain new experiences again."

Sandra