Get Out of Town!

by Meredith Winnett

One of the most important things to do when you’re in college, or college-aged, is travel. Anywhere you can go, do it.

The summer before my junior year I spent 14 days in Vietnam and 2 in Cambodia for a Communication course. We studied the media, history, culture, and effects of Agent Orange while in Vietnam, then flew over to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat.  The trip was originally about $5,000, but after our college president pulled some stings we got grants which paid for half the trip. I knew that I wanted to take a short-term trip, and I wanted something that applied to my major. The other trip that semester was to Jordan so I knew my parents would never let me go to a Middle Eastern country.

So I picked Vietnam and I don’t regret a single moment of that trip. The people were very friendly, the food was incredible, and the things we experienced were priceless. Meeting the children affected by Agent Orange was heartbreaking and definitely put a damper on the trip, but that’s what we were there for. Experiences like that are ones you can’t learn in a classroom and set you aside from those who didn’t travel and gain experiences.

While in Vietnam, we visited Halong Bay. Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I took a million pictures but none of them do it justice. We took a junk boat cruise and while we were docked, we were allowed to jump off the boat into the bay. Also, we hiked to the top of a mountain and explored some caves.

In Hanoi, we met Madam Binh who was the former Ho Chi Minh’s right-hand woman and the most bad ass woman I have ever met. Not only was she fighting for Vietnamese freedom, but she was also fighting for female equality. She was always a big fan of women having power, so in our meeting she encouraged women to speak up. So I did, and she loved me for it. She loved me so much that she taught me how to eat the popular lychee fruit!

While in Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were used by South Vietnam soldiers to stealthily get from place to place. They had kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms so they rarely had to come to the surface.

Cambodia was a lot of fun. We explored at least ten of the buildings in the ancient city of Angkor, which was amazing alone. I walked down a side path with my professor and we saw a herd of monkeys and a woman selling monkey food. Of course we fed them, and of course, one attacked me. I was lucky enough not to get scratched, but it was the scariest thing to happen to me ever. However, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell.

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Descriptions:

1. That’s me sitting on the floor of a coffee house in Hanoi

2. Me again, on the steps of a temple at Angkor Wat

3. Me, post monkey attack … they smelled my fear

4. Halong Bay – like I said, the pictures don’t do it justice

5. Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, where they have his embalmed body which I saw…

6. Water puppets from Hanoi’s oldest water puppet theater

The picture order was thrown off for some reason, but you get the point 🙂 Also, now my font’s messed up…

My original plan was to talk about my semester in Washington DC, but talking about this trip took up a lot of space. But really, if you have the chance to travel, do it. Go far away. Go to a place you have never imagined visiting. You never know what you’ll learn!

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