After seven months of preparation, 20 Year 11 students and five staff members finally went on their Immersion from Saturday 23 September to Tuesday 3 October.
Exploring Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh City)
For the first three days, we immersed ourselves in the rich culture and history of the country. We attended Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral, explored Independence Palace, the War Remnants Museum, the City Central Post Office and the Book Street in District 1. We also spent a day at Cu Chi Tunnels. The tour gave us a unique glimpse into the history and tactics of the war in Vietnam.
We encountered many friendly Vietnamese people, learned how to cross the bustling streets and enjoyed plenty of delicious food, including the favourite sugarcane drink!
Rose School for Children with Hearing Impairment
After Sai Gon, we spent two days at Rose School for 76 students aged from two to 17 years old. The Dominican sisters gathered children from the district (who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have an opportunity to be educated) and teach them how to communicate and eventually help them to integrate into mainstream schools.
We received an incredibly warm welcome from the Sisters and children together with dances, poems and all. Everyone had an amazing time bonding with the kids and teaching them different games, making Rosary beads, cards and sharing languages with one another. We were spoiled by the sisters with delicious meals and fun interactions. We worked alongside the Sisters and the students, helping them to clean up their garden beds and plant some vegetables, learning the value of hard work for a good cause.
Visiting the Dominican Motherhouse
On Thursday, the Immersion team visited the Dominican Sisters’ motherhouse and learn about their beautiful way of life. The day began by attending morning Mass alongside the children at a kindergarten run by the Sisters. We were blown away by the children’s voices as they joined in harmony and sung during the hymns. After the Mass, we were delighted by a delicious meal prepared in kindness for us. Everybody’s favourite part of the day were the activities with the children as laughter and smiles filled the school yard.
After a sad goodbye to the kids, we were led to the museum located within the Covent and we learnt about the history of the Dominican Congregation and its powerful agency not only in Vietnam, but also overseas. We attended the Evening Prayer with the Sisters, followed by a shared meal with all Sisters in their dining room. The Vietnam Immersion team would really like to thank the Sisters for their hospitality and willingness to share their life’s vocation with us.
With Indigenous Boarding School
Finally, we spent our last three days in Kontum working with a boarding school for Indigenous Bana girls. Once again, we received a warm welcome from the local community who embraced us with open hearts. We played, sang and studied with them, learning about their rural lifestyle and the cultural customs of their village. We both came to appreciate the many privileges we have in Australia – clean running water, easy access to technology and more – and had much to learn from the rich sense of community, culture, resilience and kindness we experienced there. We all grew very close with the girls and, after attending Mass with the village on Sunday, celebrated our time together with lots of dancing, food and quite a few tears shed as we said goodbye to a place and people we had come to love so dearly.
“The Vietnam Immersion was honestly the most incredible experience of my life and something I will cherish forever. It was unbelievably rewarding and special and I could not be more grateful for the relationships we formed and the experiences we shared. I hope we left as much of an impact on those we served, as they did on us.” – Josie Allen
“This experience can only be described as life changing. It was amazing and there was so much knowledge to be taken from the trip. It was fulfilling to hear and see all the laughter and the smiles that we put on everyone’s faces. The scenery, history and Vietnamese culture was so rich and beautiful, allowing us to make memories we will never forget.” – Bianca De Mello
‘The Vietnam Immersion showed me how to find joy within, thrive with limited resources and simply step out of my comfort zone and embrace all that comes my way; usually arms full of bubbly, beautiful Vietnamese students who just felt so much joy that we came and we cared. We taught them a lot, but they taught us so much more.’ – Isabelle Lyra
“We have so much to learn from other people. Not once while I was in Vietnam did I think I have more than these people and therefore I am happier. The main thing I kept thinking was “we have a lot to learn from these wonderful people”. A simple life compared to our western life doesn’t necessarily mean a poorer life. Amongst a very simple lifestyle, I found the most friendliest, hard working, most well mannered, polite, helpful people and children I’ve ever met!” – Miss Taryn Mohen
Immersion Students and Staff