Gabrielle Lewis, staff in REI's Global Headquarters, recently had the opportunity to visit REI's work in Vietnam and Laos. Here is a brief account of her observations and impressions.
The fireworks and celebration taking place as REI’s summer exchange students landed in Hanoi on May 19 were extremely gratifying! Of course, the celebration was for the birthday of Ho Chi Minh, founder of the present republic of Vietnam, not for us, but no matter. There were also some who were equally excited about the arrival of our students and the launch of this year’s Summer Cultural Exchange program! Read more...
Here at REI we take the Exchange element of our mandate seriously. From May 21 to June 16 thirteen American students lived in Hanoi, making friends, eating savory street food, and learning about Vietnamese language and culture as well as sharing their own. By all accounts all the students involved, Vietnamese and American alike, had a great time!
The REI-Vietnam Cultural Exchange Program in Hanoi has grown from a single location from 2011-2013 to multiiple locations in 2014, now taking place not at just one, but at two universities in Hanoi. REI’s veteran staff members, Dr. Jeff Stebbins and Bob Motsay, coordinated two student teams to the University of Language and International Studies (ULIS) and the National Economics University (NEU) in Hanoi from May 23 to June 17. Jeff accompanied the ULIS team (Melissa Crockett, Travis Williamson, Sierra Kedroske, Virginia O’Connor, and Shelby Soltau, led by Ethan Springer), while Bob accompanied the NEU team (Joshua Aguilar, Hillary Fromme, and Daniel Walls, led by Caleb and Katelyn Quinones). This program enjoyed a number of firsts, including our first partnership with NEU, our first participating couple (the Quinoneses), and the first time for some of our team members to eat silkworms! Read more…
Every summer since 2011, Jeff Stebbins has trained a group of motivated, globally-minded young people before taking them to Vietnam as part of the REI-Vietnam Cultural Exchange program. The team was recently here in Colorado Springs for a few days of training, which took place in our office (and in a nearby Vietnamese restaurant!).
From its humble beginnings in 2011 as “plan B” for a group of students whose trip to Mongolia was canceled, the REI-VN summer cultural exchange program has developed into a much-anticipated opportunity for college students to experience the culture, language and people of Vietnam. Students value the chance to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired in college, and to make a profound contribution to lives of emerging leaders in Vietnam. The University of Languages and International Studies (ULIS) in Hanoi partners with REI-VN, and has been instrumental to the success of this program. This summer’s cultural exchange trip was definitely an adventure. The challenging experiences our 2013 team faced stretched and knit them closer together in unexpected ways. Team members returned home better people than when they left, having matured in skill, cross-cultural understanding, and character.
University Students are great ambassadors in representing one country to another. Their energy, openness to new experiences, eagerness to learn, and optimism are a few of the qualities that make youth so good in cultural exchanges. REI Vietnam is delighted to have a team of 8 US university students who will take part this summer in a third annual month-long cross cultural exchange program. The US students will be formally studying the people, language and culture of Vietnam. Students in Vietnam who are in the program will be learning similar things about Americans. Outside of the formal learning activities, there are times of hanging out, sharing life, and having fun together - things that students all over the world enjoy.
Last year REI began a cultural exchange program with Vietnam National University's ULIS (University of Languages and International Studies). This year, for four weeks in June, a second group of American university students flew to Hanoi to trade our language and culture for those of Vietnam.
This past June, REI-Vietnam and the University of Languages and International Studies, or ULIS—one of several colleges in Vietnam National University—conducted their first cultural exchange program. Eight college students from three universities in Kansas and Missouri arrived in Hanoi on June 8th. They were joined by REI’s Jeff Stebbins, a Ph.D. in Vietnamese linguistics who has lived in Vietnam for more than 20 years.