In mid-October 2015, Professor Nguyen Diep Quy Vy (“Vy”) left a city of approximately 9 million people for her first visit to the United States. She didn’t come in search of more crowds, high-speed transportation and high-end shopping opportunities. She came instead to bring the story of Vietnam, her country, to quieter venues in Northwest Ohio.
Vy, lecturer of the Faculty of Urban Studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH), Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCM), arrived in Findlay on October 20 as part of an ongoing faculty exchange program between USSH and The University of Findlay. During her three-week stay, she spoke to UF students about changes in Vietnam since the 1986 Doi Moi (“Renovation”), focusing on urban areas and Ho Chi Minh City (likely to be the first Vietnam mega-city.) She also traveled to three schools in Hancock County to talk about her country and cultural diversity.
“Vietnam was reunited in 1975 and began an open policy in 1986,” Vy said. “In 1995, relations with the United States were normalized.” Since that time, cities in Vietnam have been experiencing a rapid process of industrialization and modernization.
USSH is located in Ho Chi Minh City with a population of nearly 9 million people. It’s expected that the population will soar to more than 10 million by 2025. Vy feels the city needs to preserve its heritage as well as being a major contributor to the economic prosperity of the country. This can’t be achieved without a few growing pains, like pollution and overcrowding in some areas.
“We have people from 54 different ethnic groups of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City alone,” Vy stated. “In addition, there are many tourists from the U.S. and other western countries.” Surprisingly, there are few cultural conflicts within this mega city. This peaceful blending of cultures is a message she gladly shared during her visits to UF classes and Riverdale, Vanlue and Van Buren schools near Findlay.
Different Communities, Similar Problem
Far from being boring, Vy found Findlay and the surrounding rural areas very appealing. She felt the flat, Northwest Ohio landscape was similar to that of Australia where she had attended graduate school. Like Findlay, Ho Chi Minh City has experienced severe flooding due, in part, to the heavy tropical rains and as a consequence of rapid urbanization.
“Some of the flooding is due to topography,” she added. “But some people and businesses have built where they shouldn’t have. Now places flood that haven’t flooded in the past.”
Ho Chi Minh City government is attempting to raise awareness of the issue among its residents and is seeking solutions to mitigate flooding.
“We have developed both hard solutions and soft solutions,” Vy emphasized. Building levees and dams and improving urban infrastructure would be hard solutions. Creating permeable sidewalks and making use of green spaces that help absorb water in residential areas could be soft solutions.
Until October 2015, she had experienced life in the states only through talking to Americans in Vietnam and American television. . . and she is a fan. She loves game shows and movies. She also feels that U.S. students are very active learners, maybe more than their counterparts in Vietnam.
“I think there should be more interaction in Vietnamese classrooms,” she stressed.
After returning to Ho Chi Minh City, “Professor Vy” started preparing for a move to Australia where she will pursue a Ph.D. in public policy at the Australian National University. She hopes to focus on developing affordable housing models that might work in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam in general.