RMIT Vietnam NewsThe Great Exchange

The Great Exchange

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 10:30
RMIT Vietnam

Their backgrounds may be quite different, but Justin Goldman and Nathan Mericka have one key thing in common – once the thought of leaving Melbourne on exchange to RMIT Vietnam came into their heads, they both found it irresistible.

Mr Mericka became fascinated by the thought of going to Vietnam after discovering RMIT had campuses there.

Having never been overseas before heading to Vietnam three months ago, the culture shock was both intense and exciting.

"As soon as I got off the plane I noticed the heat, humidity, noise, busy-ness and liveliness of the city – all good things!" the Bachelor of Science (Applied Sciences) student said.

"During the taxi ride from the airport to campus I was amazed at all the tiny laneways and streets off the main roads, each bursting with markets, cafes, restaurants, shops and more.

"It was pretty cool seeing locals selling just about anything you could think of on the side of the road such as live fish, shirts, hats, crabs, soup, mobiles, lollies, maps, lighters – you name it."

As the taxi drove towards the campus, Mr Mericka first thought he was passing a holiday resort until he saw the large RMIT logo and realised this would be his new home.

"RMIT Vietnam is like a little quiet paradise away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City," he said.

"It has big green grass fields, modern buildings and a huge sports centre. It's so picturesque and well looked-after, I even saw a couple having their wedding photos taken on campus!"

International students from around the world are welcomed at RMIT Vietnam, which has more than 6,000 students on two campuses, in the modern Saigon South district of Ho Chi Minh City and on the banks of one of Hanoi's picturesque lakes.

The students come from countries including Australia, Denmark, France, Norway, the Philippines, Sweden, the US and the UK, with many staying in the purpose built on-campus Residential Centre at South Saigon.

Mr Mericka is studying Professional Communication courses during his exchange – a big change from science but a challenge he is relishing.

"My class environment and schedule are completely different to my science degree, but the experience I'm getting from all of the differences between the courses is invaluable," he said.

"Science doesn't usually have a large focus on communication so having these subjects under my belt will help ensure my degree stands out from others in the same field after graduation."

One of the biggest surprises of his exchange was how quickly he found himself immersed into campus life and Vietnamese culture.

"On the day I arrived a new friend at RMIT Vietnam offered me a lift on their motorbike to the local shops and students are quick to invite you out to coffee or to show you around the city," he said.

"I've also been amazed how there is literally always something fun to do or someone to meet up with for a meal or a cold drink."

His advice for anyone considering an exchange at RMIT Vietnam?

"Do it without hesitation. It's an opportunity that shouldn't be missed and you'll be so glad you came," he said.

"Also be ready to jump at any opportunity that presents itself while you're here and be open to any new experience. There's a tonne of new experiences to be had in Vietnam and you won't want to miss a single one."

For Mr Goldman, the decision to study at RMIT was largely driven by a long-held dream: to travel far from his family home and find his way to Vietnam.

"I have many Vietnamese friends and I've always been interested in the country and its culture," he said.

"When I was weighing up my study options three years ago, I went online, hunted around and worked out that RMIT had two campuses in Vietnam.

"That decided it for me, so I applied to study in Melbourne and started saving to go on exchange."

Mr Goldman completed the Advanced Diploma of International Business last year and has articulated to the Bachelor of Business (International Business).

Coming to RMIT Vietnam's Saigon South campus in February meant adjusting to a new culture, a three-semester year and the higher demands of undergraduate studies.

But having cherished his dream for so long, Mr Goldman was perhaps more prepared than most.

"I've been studying Vietnamese for three years, so I can get by with a bit of basic conversation," he said.

"When I started at RMIT with the aim of going on exchange, I also began researching by talking to my Vietnamese friends and their parents about the place, the people and what I should expect."

In his first semester at RMIT Vietnam, Mr Goldman stayed in the Residential Centre but has since moved to an apartment close the border of Districts 1 and 3, near the centre of the city.

Mr Goldman had never lived out of home before arriving in Vietnam: figuring out how to balance his time has been one of the biggest challenges of living alone.

"I'm enjoying the chance to be more independent, learning to be more resourceful and living among the locals," he said.

"And the cost of living here in comparison to Melbourne certainly makes things easier, with a bus ride costing about 15 cents and a big bowl of pho soup at the cafeteria setting me back less than $1.50."

Mr Goldman, who will undertake an internship as part of his program in his final semester, hopes to stay in Vietnam after graduating.

"I like Vietnam, I feel comfortable here, and I'd like to spend a few more years working in the country after I finish my studies at RMIT."

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Photo on the homepage: Relaxing at one of South Saigon campuses outdoor cafeterias; Nathan Mericka (centre left) and Justin Goldman (centre right) with friends Duy Duc Le (far left) and Cedric Le Mercier (far right).