At Home in Việt Nam

This is the name of a blog created by Becky Gordon, an English teacher in the School Year Abroad (SYA) program in Hanoi.  As she writes in the introduction, “this monthly blog will chronicle the students’ lives in Viet Nam outside the SYA classroom. A process of sharing and peer-editing in their English class will precede all posts thereby creating an individual and collective narrative. Travel-journalist Tom Miller said “The finest travel writing describes what’s going on when nobody’s looking.” May these young writers seek out and find their moments to see, with new eyes, what no one else sees. May they write their stories with sensitivity and passion. And may you, our readers, enjoy imagining their Viet Nam.”

Since there are fewer than 700 US students in Vietnam and most are university students who participate in short-term programs, the SYA Vietnam program is very unique.  A group of 15 young Americans from high schools around the US arrived on 1 September 2011 and will spend the academic year in Vietnam.  4 of the 15 students are from public schools and the others are from private, including boarding and day schools.  Ms. Gordon describes them as “members of host families, interns at various community organizations, students on a university campus and participant-observers in a foreign culture and society.”   

 As the SYA website notes, the program “was founded in 1964 by Phillips Academy in Andover (Massachusetts, USA) and is now supported by a consortiu,m including top independent schools across the country.  School Year Abroad (SYA) is the only secondary-level program which allows students to live with a European or Asian family for an entire academic year while earning U.S. graduation credits and preparing for selective U.S. colleges and universities.”  In addition to Vietnam, there are SYA programs in China, France, Italy, and Spain.  (SYA’s 2010 operating revenue and expenses were $12,599,371 and $13,393,738, respectively.)

As you may have guessed, this potentially life-changing experience does not come cheap.  In 2011-2012, total expenses, including tuition and fees, academic counseling, medical insurance, public transportation to and from school, school trips, room, board, laundry, books and standardized testing fee, international airfare and personal spending money came to over $50,000.

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