RMIT Vietnam recently held its first study tours, intensive three-week courses on commercialisation and photography, respectively.
Christian Berg, Industry Fellow, School of Communication & Design, developed and led the photography course.
“They asked me as a professional photographer and long-time resident of Ho Chi Minh City, with an Asian studies background as well, to develop it,” Mr Berg said.
“The idea was to develop not only a course that is about photography skills, but also to have a little bit of a theoretical body, with the history of the medium and understanding the medium of photography and society.”
Mr Berg led seven students from around the world, including two from RMIT University in Melbourne, through classes on theory and photo walks that allowed the participants to put what they were learning into practice in the real world.
“We had a short theory course here at RMIT, and then we went out for two hours to take pictures, and then we had a few early morning workshops,” he shared.
“We were meeting at RMIT at 6am and then heading to District 5 [in Ho Chi Minh City] to discover some local markets, to local neighbourhoods in District 3, and one day we did an urban architecture workshop where we went to Thu Thiem Bridge.”
Olivia Robinson-Danckert, an International Studies student at RMIT University in Melbourne, was one of the course participants.
“I got an email from RMIT just saying there’s an opportunity in Ho Chi Minh City if you’d like to go,” she said.
“I went to Vietnam with my family about eight years ago and loved it, so I thought if there’s an opportunity I should try and make it work.”
She shared that the course allowed her to get a better sense of the city than if she had simply come on vacation.
“The best part was living in the city and having a purpose, which is a better way to experience it,” Ms Robinson-Danckert said.
“I think if I had just come here for three weeks, I would’ve been a bit lost… I think having a camera and having a purpose and coming to university every day helped me see the city in a different way.”
Jogvan Klein, Director, International, explained that RMIT Vietnam hopes to expand such study tours following the success of these first two courses.
“There are a lot of international students that would love to come to Vietnam,” he said.
“However, they may not be ready to commit to a whole semester or whole degree. This three-week program lends itself really well to those students.”
For Mr Berg, the real value of the course was getting students to interact with the city around them. During one of the photo tours, the group spotted a woman grilling pork chops, while the smoke from the grill drifted in the early morning light.
“I told the students how you can see this beautiful scene and wait for someone to pass through the light,” he said.
“I think that was a magical moment, an eye-opener for everyone, because you take your time and wait in an environment and boom, you can get a really outstanding shot.”
Story: Michael Tatarski