Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cold weather, big food, and campus life

Today MVCC is interviewing its seventh Visiting Professor, Ms. Quyen T.T. Luong from Kien Giang Community College in Rach Gia, Kien Giang, Vietnam. This is Part 1 of her blog.
How have you been dealing with the cold weather?
The weather is the biggest challenge to me here. I always wear at least three layers when I go out, with socks, a hat and gloves. I even wore 5 layers, two pairs of socks and prepared two pairs of gloves when I went to the hockey game with the Resident Directors at MVCC. That was because I was informed that it would be very cold in there, and I was afraid that I would be frozen in such cold.  
Ms. Quyen T.T. Luong poses with some new friends, all wearing many layers in the winter.
Yesterday morning I made a big mistake. Before I went out of the dorm, I looked outside through the window and I discovered that it was a very beautiful day. The sun was shining and the students were having fun in very comfortable clothes on the campus, so I decided not to wear my jacket. The result was that on the way to visit the class and going home, I felt that I was going to die in the cold. Even when I was in class, I was so cold that sometimes I could not concentrate on the interesting clip the teacher showed. That is a lesson for me.
Big food is always a big draw.

What do you think of American pizza?
This question makes me think about a sentence in the handbook for visitors to the United States by Yale Richmond I read before I came to the U.S. That is “Big is beautiful” to American people, even the food. I can see that here. Although I was informed things were going to be big, when I was first in an American restaurant, I couldn’t help being surprised at the very big pizza, which I had never seen in Vietnam. The pizza here is so big in comparison with the one in Vietnam, and one slice can make me full. It is also very delicious. One thing I like is that there are many kinds of pizza to choose from, and I can ask the cooks to make my own pizza with the toppings I choose from the list on the menu. We don’t have those in Vietnam.

What do you think of American students? How do they differ from students in Vietnam?
They are very friendly and willing to participate in classroom activities, which makes the classes very lively.
The big difference between the students here and Vietnamese students is that I can’t tell who the students are and who the teachers are at MVCC. One morning, I said “Hi” and had a conversation with a man without knowing that he was a student until he mentioned something related to my presentation in his class last week. Oh, it’s fun and nice to talk to and make friends with people, but I’m afraid that I may have trouble in the future if I don’t know who is who.
With the MVCC mascot, Mo Hawk.

In what ways do American students and/or teachers impress you? (This can be both positively and negatively.)
The students are so active on campus with sports, dancing, and singing. I watch them playing almost every day on the way to my dorm after visiting classes. They not only create joy for themselves but they also bring it to me. I am happy and relaxed when I see them throwing the ball to each other, dancing while listening to music, or practicing moves on skateboards. Some days ago I even saw them have a mini sport competition in the square in front of Payne Hall. I don’t see such activities happening every day on campus in Vietnam, except the times when the teachers organize sports or competitions.
Another difference is that the students can wear hats in the classrooms, and they also don’t need to stand up to say “hello” and “goodbye” to their teachers when they enter and leave the classrooms. That can’t happen in Vietnam.

What do you think about how Americans greet each other? What other parts of American culture have seemed interesting to you? Why were they interesting?
Americans say “Hi” like Vietnamese, but don’t need to bow their heads as Vietnamese people do. Americans also hug each other when they greet each other, which does not happen in Vietnamese culture.
Another thing is that Americans don’t add title to first names but to the last names and they use first names to address older people. In Vietnam, people don’t call others by last name, but by first name, and we add an appropriate title to the first name to talk to an elder. We may not call the older person by their first name but the title is a must. 
One thing in the U.S. I can do is to figure out who are husband and wife when I see them because it seems that husbands and wives tend to kiss each other when they meet. This doesn’t happen in Vietnam. I think it’s great because we can see their happiness. We also feel happy when we see others are happy, and so we try to make our life happy as theirs.   


  1. Hi Ms. Quyen!
    I wish I'd realized sooner that you were writing a blog. I love to read the impressions of America from our visiting professors.

    About the cold: Once you are here long enough you become used to the cold, acclimatized to it, so that it doesn't bother you as much. Also, I must say, Americans are fatter than Vietnamese people, and body fat helps to insulate us from the cold so that we don't feel it as much. Still, I must admit we had an unusually COLD winter! But you did get to see snow. What did you think of that? It's pretty when you first see it, but I hate driving in it!

    I didn't know you had pizza in Vietnam! What kinds of toppings can you get on your pizza there? My favorite is broccoli pizza. I think everything is big here because as prices go up people want to feel as if they are getting their money's worth, so they expect big things. Frankly, many Americans eat too much, and smaller sizes would be better--if only the prices would go down!

    Really, Ms. Quyen, I don't think it matters if you can't tell the difference between students and teachers. I believe that all learning is a two-way process. Good teachers learn from their students while the students are learning from them. I believe that everyone has something to teach you, if you're open to learning it. I'm not just talking about college subjects, but about life lessons as well. I think it speaks to your openness and friendliness that the student felt comfortable conversing with you!

    Frankly, I wish students would take their hats off in class and be more respectful, like they are in Vietnam. It used to be that way one hundred years ago. But times change. I'm old-fashioned, I guess.

    How do you know if someone is older than you, in order to add the correct title? People in America often look older (because they have abused their bodies with alcohol or drugs) or younger (because of plastic surgery) than they really are. I have trouble judging how old someone is. That may be why, when Americans address older people, they don't use titles. Are there transgender people in Vietnam? People who are transgender may not look quite male or female, so you would not know what title to give them. Also, the way people have their hair sometimes makes it difficult to tell if they're male or female. The people you saw kissing may not have been husband and wife. They may have been boyfriend and girlfriend. Personally, I don't like public displays of affection like that. But again, I'm old-fashioned.

    I hope you enjoyed your visit to America. I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to meet with and talk to you. I haven't been here much this semester because I've been away taking care of my mother, who is having chemotherapy for cancer.

    Thank you for the magnet you left in my mailbox! I'm going to keep it on my file cabinet to remind me of all our wonderful Vietnamese professors.

    I hope you have a safe journey back to Vietnam. Maybe some day I can visit your country, but I will have to get used to the heat and humidity like you had to cope with our cold! Chuyến đi an toàn!

    Krista Hartman (Library)

  2. Krista Hartman (Library)May 14, 2015 at 10:48 AM

    Hello again, Ms. Quyen!

    I've been looking at this magnet you gave me, and I really like it. To me it represents peace, health, and industry. It's peaceful because the water is quiet, and the boat is being paddled, not propelled by a noisy motor. It represents health because the food in the baskets is natural and not processed, so it is healthier, and paddling the boat is good exercise, which promotes health. And it represents industry, because the woman in the boat is either bringing the food to market to sell or bringing it home for her family, both of which are industrious activities. It also represents self-sufficiency, because the woman can feed herself and her family. It's a very nice picture to contemplate, especially for a woman. Thank you again for such a thoughtful gift!

    Krista Hartman (Library)