To explain how I got to Vietnam I have to start another story in January. A year ago I applied for a semester abroad in Istanbul through the Erasmus program. A few weeks later, TUM sent me the letter of acceptance and I was pretty happy. But six months later, my attitude towards Istanbul changed dramatically because of the terrorist attacks there. I tried constantly not to bow to terrorism, but after several attacks during this time I unfortunately refused my stay in Istanbul.
That’s why I looked for more options in July, which is obviously quite late for the winter semester. Since the TUMExchange and Erasmus programs were apparently closed at this point in time, I had to get in touch with IEC and Thembaprograms. Among other things, they offered Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in Vietnam. I never thought about visiting this country, but after reading some testimonials about studying and living there, I was very interested . After brief conversations with my family, Vietnam was my final decision. I decided to do my semester abroad because in my case the service was much friendlier compared to IEC.
The application process was pretty straightforward and easy going . After a short conversation with the person in charge, I was sent all the necessary documents. In addition, I had to send a short letter of motivation. Ms. Jakobs even took care of the application for the student visa. However, this took a while, which was much more due to the Vietnamese work culture (when I arrived in Vietnam, I also heard about major problems from other students). So make sure you have enough time to get the visa! Three days before my start I finally had my visa in my hand and everything was ready! The semester started on October 17th, so I took my flight 10 days early to organize my things there and to acclimatize. South Vietnam has a fairly warm and humid climate, so I was curious because I prefer cool air. Still, I got used to it faster than I thought.
I spent my semester at RMIT (Royal Technology Institute of Melbourne) which is actually an Australian university based in Melbourne . It has two locations in Vietnam , Hanoi in the north and HCMC in the south. You can imagine the RMIT like a private university in Germany, but bigger. I attended small courses with a maximum of 30 people and had personal contact with the teacher . However, about 3500 students attend the RMIT Vietnam in HCMC .
Within the classes, I had a lot of group work and lectures, and most of the time I worked with Vietnamese students. Sometimes they were unable to speak proper English and they were difficult to work with … Several international students had this problem. Nevertheless, I also had groups with Vietnamese who spoke good English. The teachers came from 26 different nations, which underlines the internationality of the university . In total, I completed three courses : ” Applied Entrepreneurship “, ” Internet for Business ” and ” Performance Analysis and Simulation “.
Since I’m seriously interested in entrepreneurship and want to start my own business, the first two courses were quite interesting and helpful by learning how to come up with an idea and use the internet for our own business. The latter was helpful to understand the interaction between departments in a company, because we students competed in software that simulated four departments that we had to lead through 8 simulated years. Regarding course registration, all students will receive an email when they need to select the courses in the system. After choosing the course, course participants can switch courses in the first two weeks of the semester. This helped a lot due to some differences between expectations and the real course. I changed two courses within the first two weeks.
Most students took three or four courses, with three being the minimum of courses that overseas students must choose in order to obtain the student visa. In my opinion, three courses gave me the chance to learn and experience a lot at RMIT and at the same time have enough free time to experience Vietnam.
The university has three main buildings. Two buildings are for teaching, one for sports. The second building in particular is quite modern and technically well-equipped compared to other universities. There is a projector in almost every room and there are several computer laboratories. I also really liked the sports building, which includes a large hall (for several sports such as badminton, basketball, soccer …) and a gym. In addition, the campus is amazing . The RMIT offers a food court with several stands (also Mexican and subway), a small supermarket, tennis courts, soccer fields and enough parking spaces for the numerous motorbikes.
The support for new and incoming international students has been great . I received several emails prior to my stay regarding the first few weeks, events, accommodation, course registration, etc. As a result, I never felt unsure or nervous about what was going to happen next. Once there, the RMIT offered many events to make friends with the university, the culture and the people. In particular, the optional cooking class and Vietnamese course helped a lot to get to know the Vietnamese culture . We also had a lot of fun. I strongly recommend attending these two classes and most of the events that the RMIT offers at the beginning of the semester.
Since I had no idea how long it would take to find accommodation , I booked a room through Airbnb for two weeks in advance. However, this turned out to be too long because I found a house with 3 other boys only 8 days after my arrival. The other international students also found accommodation fairly quickly, so an “Airbnb” should be fine for 2 weeks (because of the possibility of being able to cancel -> check the host’s guidelines). We were lucky with the house because the two French people I was with had friends who lived in HCMC and gave us a contact. So we cut our budget to $ 350 per person per month and looked at some high-rise apartments and this house. We had a long discussion and finally decided to take the house because of its neighborhood. The apartments are all very modern, well equipped and have a fantastic view. The disadvantage is, Often they are grouped with a pool and a supermarket in between . Nevertheless you don’t feel the Vietnamese spirit and the “chaos” that is typical for Vietnam. Since we wanted to experience exactly that, we decided on the house, surrounded by small shops, mechanics, hairdressers, street kitchens and Vietnamese restaurants … Almost every student got accommodation in District 7 because the RMIT is located there. But with an “Uber”, motorcycle or car it takes 20 minutes to the city center (District 1), where all the attractions and nightlife take place.
That leads us to the very low cost of living there . The “Uber” car costs around 60,000 dong for around 20 minutes, which is around € 2.40 (a motorcycle is almost half the price). The same goes for groceries, although the price range is huge. There are some really good and expensive restaurants in Vietnam, but there are also several options to eat really tasty but cheap. If we leave aside the expensive restaurants, lunch or dinner hardly costs more than 100,000 dong, which is around € 4.00. Especially the street food is affordable and most times pretty good. Beer is always available and usually costs around 20,000 dong. On top of that, traveling is also affordable and a dream in Southeast Asia. I have been to Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia , traveling by bus and plane. There are night buses with flat beds in both Vietnam and other countries that make traveling very comfortable. In addition, domestic flights are around USD 30-40. So use the time to travel while studying !
Apart from traveling, I also recommend enjoying life in the city . Every time someone asked me about life in this metropolis, I found it difficult to explain why I liked it. In addition to the really good nightlife , it is definitely the city vibes that fascinate people and cast a spell over them. HCMC never sleeps and is full of shops, restaurants, bars, Cars and a huge amount of scooters. Although at the beginning I was a little scared and excited about the traffic at the same time, two weeks after my arrival I rented a scooter that was $ 40 / month (many other students did too). In retrospect, I can say that it wasn’t completely risky, but soooo much fun – and … to be honest, when is motorcycling safe? I would definitely recommend renting a scooter . Because you are much faster and more independent compared to always having to take “Uber”. I don’t know if I wanted to live forever in this “chaotic” city, but it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life .