Student Testimonials from the 2017 ANU Vietnam Field School

Somewhere in Tay Giang

If ever there was a course that epitomises what a broader view of the university education should be, then this is it.

This course exceeded my expectations in every single way, allowing me to practically apply previously learnt theoretical foundations. As an anthropology major I felt in my element, and able to much more deeply explore this discipline and my interest in researching people and culture. We had such privileged access to informants, and Ashley’s local social capital and knowledge was invaluable. The area in the central highlands where we were based was particularly astounding as it is somewhere I would never have otherwise visited, and an area which had a very significant impact on me. I loved going out to villages, visiting people, being generously welcomed into their homes, and sitting and interviewing them for hours. I loved the food, being immersed in this world and the daily routine of discovering what lay before us. This course has led to a far deeper engagement with Vietnam, and likely South-East Asia more broadly, for me. I loved the readings, I loved the engagement with the field and I loved working within my team. I liked that my team brought together diverse students from a number of different degrees and years of study – everyone had something different and amazing to contribute. The close connection we formed is testament to the intensity of experiences we shared and the way in which we negotiated and came together to write our team report. I know that I will take the passion and engagement of this course back to all of my future studies in anthropology, and my experience of the Vietnam Field School experience will stay with me forever. I only hope more students get the opportunity to undertake such a course as I think everyone would benefit from a course as thoroughly engaging, profound and thought provoking as this.

Esther Carlin, 3rd Year B Arts / B Visual Art student


I loved Vietnam field school! It was an experience that encompassed learning, adventure, and individual growth which I am truly grateful for.

The knowledge I have gained and experiences I have lived, were everything I hoped for from the field school. The content was thoroughly engaging and we were able to apply our knowledge in a practical setting of both natural and urban environments. Thanks to our experienced lecturers, we were encouraged to ask questions, engage with the natural environment and local community, and challenge our preconceptions and interpretations. The whole experience was truly fulfilling and something I won’t ever forget. Vietnam is a beautiful country and I am planning to go back and continue further research there.

—Randa Akila, 1st year MAAPD student

This was the best experience I had taking a course at uni. I learnt more than I would have ever imagined about Vietnam, its culture and its people.

Many of my assumptions about development and governance were challenged and I came out of the field school with a deep interest and passion for the issues affecting Vietnam. Many of the people we worked with in Vietnam were so accommodating and both Ashley and David did a great job coordinating and structuring the course. The diverse group of people I met during the course was certainly different from my day to day experience of uni and I am very thankful to have met these people and taken part in this experience.

—Jason Chang, 4th Year PhB student


The VFS was an amazing experience that not only gave me the opportunity to put the things I’ve learnt in anthropology into practice, but to also immerse myself into the culture and customs of rural Vietnam.

By working closely with ordinary people, I think that this is the most amazing way to learn ethnography, and I will definitely be taking the skills I’ve acquired, during my time in Vietnam, and using them throughout the rest of my life. I’m definitely glad that I got to experience what the VFS has had to offer as I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.

—Jacquelyn Ng, 3rd year BDEVS/BARTS student

The Vietnam Field School was the best academic experience I’ve had as an undergraduate at ANU.

Despite knowing little about the country, or the discipline of anthropology, the course was really well structured, enabling us to learn quickly. I also felt I gained a deeper understanding of the content, as we were able to carry out ethnographic research, which helped in generalising what we’d learned. Overall I loved the balance of theory and practice. I also loved the level of exposure we had to the country and people. Guided by our lecturers, we were taken to places a regular visitor would probably not see, and were able to talk to a vast range of people living in Vietnam through our translators. We were also able to appreciate the locals perspective, by putting ourselves in their shoes, through various activities, such as bike riding around Hoi An, and trekking through the rice paddies in the highlands. It really showed in our lecturers teaching, the experiences they provided us, and the opportunities they gave us in carrying out ethnographic research, that we were able gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam, and anthropology. After doing this course, I now feel I have a clearer idea of what I want to do with my degree, and future studies. I would strongly recommend this experience.

—Kathleen Rippon, 1st year Bachelor Science (Psychology) student


The Vietnam Field School was eye-opening and mind-blowing.

The course was meticulously designed and I knew exactly what I was doing/expected on a daily basis. Our instructors provided us with wonderful facilitators/translators which made our task of compiling information efficient. Our research “how people understood mobility and how they used space” was certainly challenging, but we’re fortunate to have an amazing team of expertise including Ashely who constantly guided us throughout the journey. How Vietnamese negotiated space on the road still leaves me dumbfounded. This trip expanded my horizon of knowledge and it refined the way I look at the concept of movement in general. I was also blessed with a really hard-working group which made the whole trip even more fascinating. I also fell in love with Vietnam and its people. Vietnamese I met were very welcoming and curious people. They are also very hard working and know how to enjoy life. Observing their lifestyle taught me what it means to be a human being. Thank you Ashley for this transformative journey.

—Asmaa Al Hameli, 2nd year MA Anthropology student

Compiled by Ashley Carruthers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s