Life-changing experience for Year 12 students in Vietnam

Thursday, Mar 03, 2016

Every year, a group of keen year 12 students travel to Vietnam for a life-changing experience. This February, 75 of us flew to Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant city filled with seas of motorcycles and Chinese New Year decorations. Upon arriving, we stopped by the War Remnants Museum to give us a greater appreciation for what the people of this beautiful country have gone through during the Vietnam War. After each section of the trip, we would return to this city and explore different attractions such as the cathedral, post office, Saigon Square, and many delicious Vietnamese restaurants. On one of the last days, we had the chance to immerse ourselves in the culture by bargaining at the Ben Thanh market as well as to get first hand experience of the country’s history when crawling through the famous Cu Chi tunnels, the way Vietnamese soldiers did during the war. 

The first part of the trip consisted of a demanding 4-day trek through the beautiful mountains of Dalat. Starting off with a mountain bike ride and later absailing down a small cliff, the journey was kept very interesting and enjoyable despite its many challenges, such as having to read our own maps and compasses. We also appreciated the astonishing scenery, ranging from coffee plantations to rivers to birds eye views from mountain peaks. After each day of trekking, we settled down at our campsite, looking forward to our meals as well as a bonfire, at which learnt native dances from locals as well as bonded with our year group through skits, songs, and storytelling. Even though everyone agreed they were pushed to their limits, the trek was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience that we will always cherish.

The second part of the Vietnam trip brought us further south to the Mekong Delta for a residential project like one none of us had experienced before. We were split into 4 groups, each building a brick house for a local family in need. We learnt and became quite proficient in cement mixing, brick laying, leaf weaving, and scaffolding, having to work as a team in order to finalize an entire house in just 4 days. We were treated to amazing food each day, keeping us energized and excited to continue building. On the last day, we handed over the house we built to the family, which was very emotional for both sides of the exchange. For many of us, the family’s reactions were eye opening in that we realized how much of a difference we are able to make in people’s lives, inspiring us to potentially return to the Mekong one day or just to continue doing community service in the future.