RUB Bauwesen CompEng
In the winter semester of 2009 the Master’s programme Computational Engineering was established at the Vietnamese German University (VGU) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In the summer semester of 2010 six VGU-students travelled to Germany and completed a research stay at RUB (read relevant article here). Now another step has been taken to further the student exchange between the RUB Masters course and its sister programme in Vietnam. Two German RUB students spent 6 weeks and one semester, respectively, at VGU to get an impression of what it’s like to study at a newly established university in an emerging Asian metropolis. Read how Thomas Hilfert, Applied Computer Science student and Comp-Eng student assistant, experienced 6 exciting weeks full of noodle soup, Finite Elements and other peculiarities.


Since I was granted the PROMOS scholarship (by Ruhr-Universität Bochum and DAAD), I was very grateful to get the great opportunity to visit Ho-Chi-Minh City (HCMC, former Saigon) in Vietnam. My contact person at the Vietnamese-German-University (VGU) was the local Comp-Eng coordinator Dr.-Ing. M. Baitsch. Since 2009 VGU has been hosting a Masters Course equivalent to the Computational Engineering program at Ruhr-Universität-Bochum.

After spending fourteen hours of travelling from Frankfurt to Ho-Chi-Minh City, I was kindly received by Daniel, a fellow RUB student and like me PROMOS scholarship holder, who was also at VGU as an exchange student.

City view

The rainy season was just ending and the humid and warm climate hit me straight away after leaving the air-conditioned airport building. We drove to District 1, which mainly consisted of expensive shopping malls, hotels and various apartment buildings. To save some money it was recommended to me to stay at a private guest house, rather than at a hotel. There are many guest houses in the different wards that go for about 10 US$, while a cheap hotel room would’ve cost 30 US$ per night. The manager, a nice woman named Thoung, showed me the room and I was welcomed by her family. Her husband, a born Japanese, knew a few sentences in German.


The following Saturday started late for me because of the jet-lag. Time for shopping! At least for the most essential things a single person household that will exist for six weeks would need. Coffee, noodle soup, orange juice and water made it finally to my first shopping list.

Vincom Shopping

There are many shops located in District 1. The more exclusive and European the products sold there, the higher the prices. Citimart was my first choice because it was near and I didn’t know any other shops at that time.

Some smaller kiosks were located throughout the wards, which also sold the important things for living and are open most of the time.


Rush hour

Daniel guided me to the most important spots during the weekend, as he had arrived one week earlier and had spent some time in the city before. One thing to mention about Saigon is the traffic. For European standards it’s just overwhelming; mostly because of the huge number of motorcycles in all possible variations. Crossing the street requires some courage for the first few times. Don’t count on crosswalks, they are just for decoration! The usual way to do this is to follow a straight, steady motion and magically all motorcycles drive around you. Cars don’t.

The other impressive thing was the kindness of the people. Almost everybody was nice and friendly for the whole time of my stay and seemed in good mood. Though this is very viral and soaks you in a “feel good”-feeling to the bones, it also has its downsides. Sometimes in a conversation people will just nod and smile at you, because they didn’t understand what you said and don’t want to affront you with asking again.


Vietnamese highways are way more crowded and dangerous than city streets, so I was delighted to have a bus picking up members of the university nearby. The trip had a duration of about 30 minutes, in rush hour and traffic jams it would take about 45 to 90 minutes.

Panoramic view
from the University
of Science

The Vietnamese-German-University is located in the northeast outskirts of Saigon, near the International University and the University of Science. The space in between is filled with shops and smaller corrugated metal housings, which are mostly fast food restaurants (Vietnamese style!).


The students and staff at VGU were very nice and welcoming to me and the working atmosphere was great. Most students were spending their spare/lunch time in the entrance hall, eating, working on their subjects or using their computers.


During the opening ceremony of the academic year 2010 a delegation from Germany and the Vietnamese Minister of Education were there to celebrate the upcoming semester, accompanied by a brass ensemble from Germany and the traditional drum sounding, played by the President of VGU. Later on every course from VGU presented their projects to the audience and explained their subjects.



Musicbox meets

After some time we found some good locations for dinner throughout the city, most of them serving traditional Vietnamese food. Without a native speaker or guide this tends to be difficult, but if one keeps watching for crowded restaurants there are good chances to find some tasty food. Or some cheap one. If you are lucky, you may get a serenade sung by one of those ambitious Pop- / Folk-music singers.


Visiting Mui Ne
sand dunes

While most of the time staying in Ho-Chi-Minh City itself, I took a weekend off to visit the Mui Ne area, located at the north. This trip took about five hours by OpenTours bus, something similar to the Greyhound busses in America. The water is crystal clear there and the beach has nice soft sand, but the area is more crowded with tourists than, for example, Vũng Tàu beach. My visit to the red sand dunes was overwhelming, especially when the sunset hit the horizon. A thing to remember for a whole lifetime.


Getting my work for the internship done, meeting nice people from all over the world, living in a very different culture and traditions and an astounding landscape to discover, this trip had it all. Vietnam is well worth a visit for everyone. Even if you should not be impressed by its wonderful countryside, the friendliness and kindness of the people will leave a remembrance in your heart forever. (th)


All images and text are under copyright by the author with the usage permission to This report does not represent the official opinion of the CompEng Programme or RUB.