Settling in Ho Chi Minh City

Austin-GuntherAustin is from Orlando, USA, which he describes as green and culturally diverse. After several years of planning to relocate to Vietnam, he and his parents eventually made the move.  Austin was upset about leaving behind so many friends and relatives, but at the same time he was excited to see what Vietnam had to offer.

In the early days, Austin, with his height, blond hair and oceanblue eyes, was not sure how to respond to all the attention that he received from the local people. Prior to joining the Australian International School, Austin undertook an online learning course. His motivation level increased and he began to enjoy school life soon after coming to AIS. The support of staff, teachers, and friends also played an important part in helping him settle in Vietnam.

By making new friends who shared common interests, Austin broadened his social network and increased his enjoyment of

life in Vietnam.  As time went by, Austin developed a deep appreciation of Vietnamese culture and people. Austin observes: “Vietnamese people love the family unit and relatives. Even when they are gone, Vietnamese people will still pray and respect the deceased. It is very rare for people in America to appreciate their family in this way.” Austin continues: “I was an average kid back in Orlando, and now living in Vietnam has changed me into an above-average kid because I now have experiences and knowledge that other kids back home don’t have.

Austin’s tip for young people like him to settle well in Ho Chi Minh City:

Get involved with the community, talk with people and socialise – these are the best ways to get to know a new city”.

Kotaro-for-settling-in-hcmcKotaro WATO is a 10 year old boy from the coastal town of Kanagawa, South of Tokyo, in Japan. It is only a 20 minute bike ride to the beach, where Kotaro spent much of his earlier childhood.

When he first came to Vietnam, Kotaro could not speak any English and he was a shy, quiet boy. With the aim of developing Kotaro’s English language skills and giving him an international experience, his parents decided to enrol him in AIS.

Kotaro recalls his reaction when he came for a school tour: ‘Wow! What a beautiful soccer field!’

After only 2 weeks at AIS, Kotaro received a Student Award for his astounding success in the Inter-School (SISAC) Track & Field meet, where he came 1st  in all of the middle distance races (400m & 800m).

Not long after that, Kotaro entered the SISAC Under 11 Cross Country Race. Out of 60 students racing the 2.2km course, Kotaro ran like the wind and came first again!

His motivation did not stop there! Kotaro was selected for the AIS U11 Soccer Team, holding the position of Mid-Fielder. His proudest moment of the season was scoring eight goals against another top international school, ending the match with a spectacular score of 15-nil.

Kotaro attributes his success in sports to having an undefeatable attitude; in his heart and mind, he focuses on winning and failure is never an option.

Kotaro started playing soccer at the age of 3. He still plays 6 times a week. His inspiration is Cristiano Ronaldo and he dreams that one day he will make it into Japan’s national soccer team.

With a routine that includes getting up at 6am for a morning run; a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, sushi and miso soup; and going to bed by 9pm, Kotaro possesses the drive, discipline, self-belief and emotional maturity to succeed at AIS and anywhere in the world.

Settling-in-HCMC-individual-yu-hsinYu Hsin is a cheerful girl from Nan Tou, Taiwan. Nan Tou is located in the middle of Taiwan and is well known for its beautiful nature, open space, fresh air and mountains. 6 years ago, her mother’s decision to join her father in Vietnam changed her life forever. Although she was upset having to leave her friends behind, she was excited about a new life in Vietnam.

For Yu Hsin, home is anywhere with her family, as a result she adjusted to Vietnam quite quickly. Coming to Vietnam without any English whatsoever, Yu Hsin was quiet and shy when she first joined AIS. The interaction with students and staff had helped Yu Hsin’s English improve dramatically and she is now confident with listening and speaking. Not only did AIS benefit Yu Hsin with English, she had also made lifelong friends. Yu Hsin mentioned “I love the international environment and international education at AIS. It has allowed me to meet different types of people from all over the world. I believe this opportunity at AIS will give me a brighter future!”

Yu Hsin has noticed in her a spiritual growth too. “After seeing some of the poverty in Vietnam and how some families live, I have learnt to appreciate life, not waste food, self-control on spending and have become more thoughtful about others.”

Although Yu Hsin misses the Taiwanese street food and night markets, she loves shopping, exploring Vietnamese street food and different restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1. Her favourite food so far is the Vietnamese pork roll. She would spend her weekends with friends at the cinema or with family travelling to tourist attractions in Vietnam.

Yu Hsin’s tip: Learn some basic Vietnamese to help you get around, and explore different parts of Vietnam with local friends who can give you a more insightful perspective!

AlishiaAlishia was born in New Zealand and has lived in three different parts of the world before coming to Vietnam. When her dad announced to the family that they would be relocating to Vietnam: “Whooo-hooo!”, Alishia remembers crying with excitement. With her mum being Vietnamese, Alishia’s family had always spent Summer Holidays in Vietnam so coming back here to live felt, to her, like coming home.  Alishia now enjoys living close to her extended family. They would often get together with her grandparents, aunts and uncles, sharing stories about yester-years, which is something that Alishia missed out on in her early childhood. During her spare time, Alishia enjoys reading and cycling around (the quiet parts of) town, exploring different places and seeing what the locals do, what they eat. Her all-time favourite Vietnamese dishes are: Phở and Bánh Canh. Alishia admits that one of the most important factors that can ease the settling-in process is friendship: “Without good friends, you feel alone and this can knock your confidence. It’s important to find a school in which you feel welcome. Having good friends and enjoying school makes all the difference to how well you settle into a new city.’ A student at AIS, Alishia feels that school is a social environment where she is motivated to do her best. Alishia has received a number of Achievement and Excellence awards in a range of subjects. She is happy with her academic results but most of all, she feels that Vietnam has helped her to become a global citizen. (Alishia’s story ‘Escape’ won the Hoa Sen Short Story Writing competition in May 2012.)

ShelbyShelby came to Vietnam 3 years ago from a small town called Geelong in Victoria, near the South of Australia, with a population of less than 200,000. She describes it as a ‘perfect town’ and was sad to leave a place where she could get endless supplies of ‘whizz fizz’ (a sherbet candy), go to Green Day concerts and buy the latest Percy Jackson book. She misses the people of her home town, the places she used to hang out with friends and even misses her winter clothes! Despite her attachment to home in Victoria, Shelby has quickly settled in Ho Chi Minh city. Having spent some time in Singapore, as a result of her father’s job relocation, she felt more equipped to cope with the challenges of settling in a city that is 50 times the size of the population of her home town. Some of the things she enjoys in Ho Chi Minh City are the frantic traffic system and the contrasting laid-back lifestyle. Like many expats in Ho Chi Minh City, Shelby has voted ‘Beef Phở’ as her all-time favourite Vietnamese dish.

School plays a huge role in Shelby’s life. A Year 9 student at the Australian International School, Shelby has made friends with people from all over the world who often get together over break times to share stories about cultures and customs. For her, School is a concentrated world of positivity where “the teachers are some of the best I’ve ever had” and friends “are amazing”. Shelby has not only picked up Mandarin in three short years, she has recently achieved her personal best of 82% in an end of term test. Outside of a busy school life where she is also a key member of the AIS swim team, Shelby likes to do what most teenagers do. Fortunately, Ho Chi Minh City has most things to keep Shelby entertained like the movies, laser tag, paint ball, coffee, ice cream and shopping.

Shelby offers the following words of advice to young people relocating to Vietnam: “I would buy candles! We spent 13 hours in the dark last week without electricity, so candles are a must-have in the home!”.

VictorVictor is a teenager from Mexico City, the capital of Mexico and the second largest city in the world with a population of over 22 million- the size of Australia! Like every true Mexican teenagers, Victor spends much of his weekends playing American Football with his classmates and then indulging on tortilla and the Yucatecan cuisine after a game. Victor came to Vietnam nearly two years ago with his father, who flies planes! He gets to see his mother and sister every six months so quietly admits that he misses them terribly. Victor comforts himself with the reminder that, here in Vietnam, he is getting “a great international education” that has broadened his horizon about the world around him and he can now speak a new language that he never could before. When Victor is not completing assignments for Business Studies or Psychology, he likes to hang out with friends by the pool, venture out of the City to visit historical places like the Cu Chi Tunnels and grab some of his favourite dishes like the ‘bánh xèo’ that is irresistibly crispy and golden! Other than his own open-mindedness and positive attitude, Victor feels that school has widened his social network and helped him to achieve his goals. He relishes the challenges of being in the School’s swim team and motivating team members as the House Captain. ‘Come to this gorgeous City equipped with an open mind and a focus on succeeding at School and you will not only settle but grow to love this as your second home. Oh, and you must see Halong Bay!’ says Victor.

DanielDaniel is a 14 year old boy from Australia who came to Vietnam as a baby. As an Italian-Australian growing up in Ho Chi Minh city, Daniel can speak Vietnamese flawlessly and is treated like a true local. He enjoys watching the face of this fast-paced city change through the years with new high-rise buildings piercing the sky as often as new issues of this magazine are published. With the ambition of becoming an architect one day, Daniel is now following the Cambridge Secondary Programme at the Australian International School, where he is relishing the experience of a world class international education. One of his favourite activities at School is Design & Technology, a “cool” subject that allows him to be creative and practical. Daniel recently modeled and made an ergonomic chair, which is now proudly displayed on the presentation shelf in the Design & Technology lab. He also likes the opportunity to discuss globally significant issues with peers through the participation in Model United Nation (MUN), an extra-curricular activity in which students roleplay delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. One of the things Daniel appreciates about his School is the teachers’ depth of knowledge and respect for different views and cultures. Teachers also give individual support and personalise explanations so that everyone can access the curriculum. For Daniel, School plays an important part in his life. “It’s a place where strong friendships are formed; where views and ideas are exchanged and understanding about different cultures takes place.” Daniel offers some tips for young people relocating in HCMC: “Find a local buddy from whom you will gain a much better understanding of the country and its people!”

AlyaAlya is from Malaysia and grew up in Kuala Lumpur, a city which she fondly describes as spectacular and modern. Her family relocated to Vietnam less than 2 months ago, after a few years of living in Jakarta, Indonesia. The similarities in culture and lifestyle between Indonesia and Malaysia meant that Alya felt ‘at home’ in Jakarta, so, initially, she resisted the move to Ho Chi Minh City and tried to persuade her parents to change their minds about relocating. Despite her efforts, her family arrived in Vietnam on a pleasantly cool evening in the middle of July, moved into a luxury modern apartment in District 2 and Alya, together with her siblings, started at their new school immediately after the Eid celebrations. School was one of the predominant factors that had changed Alya’s outlook. She attributes her ability to quickly settle in Ho Chi Minh City to school life, where she has gained a lot of confidence through the support that she receives from her teachers and friends. She is also learning new things at School, not only from a host of exciting subjects like French and Design & Technology, which were not available at her previous school, she is also learning more about the Vietnamese culture that is helping her to appreciate the country she is in. As a tip for other young people coming to Ho Chi Minh City, Alya suggests: “Just be yourself, try your best to leave your comfort zone. Make yourself approachable and make new friends because this will help with the settling in process.”

AlvaroAlvaro is from a picturesque, coastal village called Noja, North of Spain, where it rains almost every day of the year except during the summer months. Alvaro came to Ho Chi Minh City 2 years ago with his family as a result of his father’s business. At the time, Spain was suffering from economic turmoil, with high unemployment rate and disaffected youths, Alvaro found it difficult to motivate and engage at his local school. With his academic performance taking a nosedive, Alvaro felt that Vietnam offered the fresh start that he needed and the opportunity could not come at a better time. Whilst Alvaro misses everything about home, from being able to speak his mother-tongue to jamón (dry-cured Spanish ham), he also loves Vietnam for its non-discriminatory ways. Here, he feels comfortable that he can be himself without being judged. Amongst other things, Alvaro enjoys being able to ride his motorbike and do many outdoor sport activities, like swimming and running, at any time of year. Being blond-haired and blue-eyed, Alvaro has found it extremely easy to settle in Ho Chi Minh City, where his appearance draws positive attention from the local people. School has also played a large part in helping Alvaro to settle in, giving him the structure and motivation that he has never had. Alvaro is inspired by the passionate and professional teachers at his School; friends, too, are self-motivated and have a desire to learn. Alvaro feels that the academically-focused School has helped him to retrieve his love for learning again. Undertaking the IB Diploma Programme is one of Alvaro’s greatest achievements since being in Vietnam, a milestone that he would not have dreamt possible if he were back in Spain. Alvaro offers a tip for young people coming to Vietnam: “Don’t judge, just accept things for what they are!”

GeorgiaGeorgia is a 14 year old girl from Darwin, a peaceful beach town in the North Australia.  Her family moved to Vietnam three years ago.  Being her first time away from home, she recalls feeling scared about the changes.  In the first three months of being in here, Georgia wanted to go back to Darwin because the contrast between life in Vietnam and Australia was so huge.  She missed the ‘golden silence’ that was rare in the bustling District 3 and she missed the regular fishing trips on her dad’s boat.  When her family moved to Thao Dien and Georgia enrolled at her new School, she began to enjoy her new found experience in Ho Chi Minh City.  At the weekend, she likes to spend time with friends having lunch in nice restaurants.  Her favourite hang-out place is L’Usine, where “they do delicious salads and wonderful cupcakes”.  She could walk around the city for hours and not be bored as the city is always changing and there are always new things to be discovered.  Georgia feels that she’s grown as a person since coming to Vietnam.  The experience has broadened her horizons; she is working much harder at school than she did back home, which will open up many opportunities for her in the future: ‘Teachers push you to achieve your best.  They are supportive yet encourage you to think independently.  Classes are smaller than at home, so we get a lot of individual attention!  There are many interesting subjects to choose from too’.  Georgia will be taking her IGCSE exams next year and is excited to be able to do IGCSE Economics, IGCSE Biology and IGCSE Art on top of the compulsory subjects.  Her advice for young people who are new to Vietnam is: ‘Don’t stay in.  Explore the city, there’s always something new to learn’.

EmilyEight months ago, Emily left the small town of Forest Lake in Australia with her mum, dad and younger brother to begin a new adventure in Ho Chi Minh City.  From a town with a population of 20,900 residents, filled with forests and a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains and pine trees, Emily feared relocating to a country that she knew little about.  So upset, Emily did not speak to her dad for a week.  The plans went ahead and the family arrived in Ho Chi Minh on a wet monsoon July, with Emily feeling terribly nervous about what lay ahead.  Enrolled in to a good school, where Emily began to make lots of new friends, she began to enjoy the bustling atmosphere of the City.  Emily likes to spend the weekend exploring Ho Chi Minh City and eating her favourite Vietnamese dish- fresh spring roll with herbs and cool soft noodles in the middle.  Other than the slight frustration of not being able to easily find shoes that fit, Emily feels that she has quickly settled in Vietnam, with the School and new friends playing an important part in this process.  Even though her School is much larger and there are subjects like Design & Technology and Mandarin that are new to Emily, she feels at home because so many aspects of the School is similar to her previous school in Australia.  An advantage that Emily has gained in Vietnam is having a better understanding in all subjects because class sizes are smaller, so teachers “provide more one on one time with each student and help us to have a deeper understanding of concepts”.  In the short space of time that Emily has been at her new School, she is proud of what she has managed to achieve: being able to speak in French and making her first desk-organiser in Design & Technology.  Emily’s tip: “Make yourself approachable so friendships can be made easily, and to explore the City!”

AdonisFour years ago, Adonis followed his father to Vietnam with the simple quest of exploring South East Asia.  For any young German from a small town in South West Germany, the thought of spending the next few years of life in an exotic place, where the culture, language and climate is unlike anything that he has grown up with, is an exciting thought. Adonis has grown to develop a lot of respect for the people of Vietnam for their strong mentality and willingness to work hard to earn a living. He believes they are disciplined and undeterred – values which have shaped the person he has become. At School, his teachers have also been great role models.  Adonis mentions the Deputy Principal in particular, who consistently supports and guides his students even when stress and heavy workload take their toll.  The support and friendship from teachers and friends, coupled with a ‘family-feel’ at School helped Adonis to settle into Ho Chi Minh City quickly.  One of Adonis’ greatest achievements is being elected as School Captain to be a good role model for others, and co-ordinate and promote student-led events.  From School, he has also learnt the all-important skills of independence and taking responsibility.  In preparing to leave Vietnam after four meaningful years, Adonis will be trying to pack as many dragon fruits into his suitcase as possible, and is looking forward to introducing his friends in Hemsbach to a new dip for sour fruits: salt & mashed red chillies!  Adonis offers a word of advice: “My number 1 tip for anyone coming to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time is: Don’t be afraid to cross the roads, just manoeuvre slowly! The bikes and scooters will make their way around you.”

Settling-in-HCMC-individual-AngiloAngilo is currently a Year 12 student, from Manila, and moved to Vietnam in April 2013 when his father was relocated for work. Although Angilo described Manila as a `nice place to be’ and misses all his friends back home, he was very excited at the prospects of studying at an international school.

As Angilo adjusted to life in Vietnam, he noticed the small class size allowed time for 1 on 1 support, allowing him to engage with the subjects and deepen his understanding. He enjoys coming to school, learning something new every day. Angilo was most impressed with the facilities of the school when he first came for a tour. His favourite rooms at AIS are the Chemistry laboratory and gymnasium. Being a shy and reserved person, for Angilo it was a big step to join the AIS Basketball team and now represents AIS to compete against other international schools in the City. Angilo believes that the programme offered at AIS has helped him to develop into a confident and well-rounded person. The Creative, Action, Service (CAS) course for example, one of his favourite subjects, encourages him to take action and step out of his comfort zone. He describes the staff as `friendly, helpful and encouraging’ compared to his experience back home in Manila. This is one of the factors that has helped Angilo settle smoothly in Vietnam.

Other than spending his weekends on completing homework, he also likes to go to the cinema with friends. His favourite Vietnamese dish is Pho Bo (beef noodles soup). Although the language is fairly new to him, he has quickly learnt how to say the essential `thank you, rice, and hello’ in Vietnamese.

Angilo’s tip is “don’t be afraid to take risks and try your best!”.

SamuelIt was a wet and humid evening in the middle of Vietnam’s monsoon season when Sam, his sister and parents arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. Having lived in Cairo, Egypt for over two years, where Sam was settled with close friends and a good city lifestyle, he dreaded the thought of yet another move to a new country, new school and having the pressure of making new friends. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Tan Son Nhat airport, Sam had to get used to the idea that this is now his new home. Three years on and Sam has fallen in love with this City. For a teenager like Sam, Ho Chi Minh City is an exciting place: Sam likes to hang out with his friends at the weekend, watch movies at brand new cinemas, explore Ho Chi Minh City’s historical attractions and play football in the warm outdoors. Sam recently charmed the audience in his debut performance as “Sam” in the School production of ABBA’s musical, Mamma Mia! Sam finds Vietnam an enchanting place where people are laidback and friendly. Sam sends the following message to friends of the same age who are relocating to Vietnam: “If you’re worried or nervous about having to learn a new language in Vietnam like I was, don’t be. English is used in most places.” Sam notes that having good friends and going to a good school have also helped him to settle in quickly.

LysisLysis comes from ‘9e arrondissement de Paris’ France, a city that she describes as relaxed, fun and where everyone knows each other.  Even though it is colder than in Ho Chi Minh City, Lysis could always venture out into the City Centre to hang out with friends, walk to her local ‘boulangerie’ to buy her mum some bread and always feel safe.  Lysis came to Vietnam five years ago as a result of her dad’s job relocation.  The thought of relocating to Vietnam, she recalled, was daunting for someone who had grown up and never lived anywhere other than Paris.  However, the pretty landscapes and familiar architecture drew her family to Vietnam.  Lysis now feels at home in Ho Chi Minh City to see the remnants of French architecture reflected in some churches and cathedrals.  She considers Ho Chi Minh City an extension of home, where the climate is better, phone calls are cheaper and eating out at fancy restaurants costs far less than in Paris.  Lysis tells us that School has played a huge role in helping her to enjoy her life in this City.  Not only has she gained a new language (English), Lysis has also been a Dance captain and her public speaking skills have improved markedly through the frequent oral presentations that students are encouraged to do at School.  Lysis offers a few tips with young people who are relocating to Vietnam: “Choose a school that you feel comfortable in and the people are friendly as this will help you make new friends easily, which will make the settling in process much easier.”

KylieKylie is a 15 year old student of Croatian and Indian descent, from Canberra. When her parents told her that the family was leaving her hometown, where she has lived all her life, to relocate to Vietnam, Kylie remembered feeling partly shocked and partly excited about having a “new beginning”. Two years on and Kylie is happily settled in her new home in HCMC, where she describes the culture as unique and the food mouth-watering. Her all-time favourite dish is “bánh xèo, a crispy pancake that is delicious wrapped in lettuce and dipped in chilli garlic sauce!”. Whilst Kylie misses the “crisp air, the feeling of the cold breeze blowing through you and getting frozen fingers”, she is enjoying her life in Vietnam. Her parents enrolled Kylie at the Australian International School because of its state of the art building and facilities as well as the instant connection she had with the teachers on her School tour. School has been instrumental in helping Kylie settle in this new city. It’s the place where she has made friends for life. School has given her the opportunity to build a strong network with people from all around the world. It has helped her to become more international-minded. One of the subjects she really enjoys is Global Perspectives, encouraging her to consider different points of views and understand issues of global significance. Receiving many achievement awards in all subjects, Kylie feels that her confidence and learning skills have developed tremendously in this learner-centred environment.

AyakaAyaka Toida is from Saitama, in Japan, which she describes as a sophisticated city with great shopping and very clean. She and her family relocated to Ho Chi Minh City a year ago due to the development of her father’s business. When she first came, she could not speak a word of English. After 12 months of being enrolled at the Australian International School where she has made friends from all over the world and is supported by native English-speaking teachers, Ayaka now speaks beautiful English and has developed tremendous confidence. She took a leading role in last year’s School Production of ‘Grease the Musical’, where she performed in front of hundreds of parents and students. Ayaka is currently undertaking the IB Diploma Programme, which is a prestigious, world-recognised international pre-University qualification. Although she is finding the Diploma Programme difficult, she enjoys the challenges and the way students like her are taught. “Here, your opinions matter. Teachers encourage you to think independently and creatively.” When she graduates from Senior School in 2015, Ayaka will return to Japan to study at a Music college. She says: “AIS has given me a strong academic foundation and helped me to develop many invaluable skills that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

JadeJade left Wollongong, a seaside city south of Sydney, with her parents and younger sister to live in Vietnam as her father was offered a new job. Jade anticipated that she would miss her family and friends and the simple pleasures of being able to take quiet walks to the beach but she also looked forward to the exciting opportunities that she would discover in Ho Chi Minh City. After two months, what Jade imagined about her new life in Vietnam became a reality. She has grown very fond of Vietnamese people, who are always friendly and accepting of foreigners like her and her family. Jade also enjoys doing all the things that teenagers typically enjoy, such as shopping, going to the cinema and eating out with friends – all of which are very accessible in Ho Chi Minh city. School has been instrumental in the settling in process, giving Jade the chance to meet friends who have also gone through similar experiences. Jade feels comfortable in her new School environment where everything is fresh and modern, classrooms are bright and spacious and the facilities are generally awe-inspiring. In the short time, she has been at AIS, Jade is happy with her new friendships and proud of her academic achievements. Jade offers some advice for young people like her who are coming to Ho Chi Minh City: “Get along with your family and siblings, because you will turn to and need each other through this adventurous journey!”

ChihiroChihiro is from one of the world’s greatest city: Tokyo, Japan.  “It’s an energetic, bustling place” describes Chihiro of her hometown.  Her family came to Vietnam 2 years ago.  Chihiro recalls the moment that she stepped out of Tan Son Nhat airport feeling that Ho Chi Minh City was far more laid-back than Tokyo and it had a charming, calmer feel than the city in which she had grown up and never left.  Chihiro has made a lot of new friends in Vietnam, who have opened her up to understanding and appreciating different cultures other than her own.  She admits that she has not missed Japanese food yet because Chihiro has been busy discovering new tastes such as ‘bún chả’ and ‘thịt kho’.  Chihiro asserts that School has played a huge role in helping her to adapt in Ho Chi Minh City.  With its fresh approach to teaching and learning, Chihiro is motivated to come to school, not only to learn from teachers but also from friends.  Having spent most of her life studying in Japanese Schools that are ‘rules-driven’, she is getting used to School being a place where every opinion is valued and respected, where teachers are supportive and encouraging.  Chihiro has noticed that she is now more proactive in class, having the confidence to share and communicate her ideas opinions.  Chihiro finds herself thriving in an international environment, which gives her the opportunity to empathise with people from different parts of the world and broaden her own horizon.

JerahleeJerahlee left Melton, a small town on the outskirts of Melbourne in Australia, two and a half years ago with her parents.  Being a keen traveller, Jerhalee’s dad wanted her to experience growing up seeing the beauty and culture of another country.  Jerhalee admits that, at first, she did not like the idea of being away from her extended family, so she went ‘on strike’ when her parents told her that the family was relocating and she refused to do what was asked of her.  Eventually, succumbing to her parents’ determination Jerhalee arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport on a hot and sticky December evening to the unfamiliar sights, sounds and smell of Ho Chi Minh City.  After a while, Jerahlee began to find that there was a lot more to do in this exciting city than back home: she enjoys going on the bumper cars in Vincom Center; finding bargains at the flee market in D7; bike-riding around Thao Dien; indulging in pretty cupcakes and trying different flavours of bubble tea.  Jerahlee also loves spending time at a friend’s house and eating food cooked by her friend’s mother.  Some of her favourite foods include ‘bánh bao’ and ‘bánh chưng’.  Sometimes, though, the urge for a packet of Smith’s Salt & Vinegar crisps kicks in, and only then does she realise that she is away from home.  Friendships that Jerahlee has made at School have been key to helping her to settle in Ho Chi Minh City.  She has met many people from different parts of the world who are all keen to learn about each other’s culture- a unique feature in an international school environment.  Jerahlee offers the following tip to other young people: “Expect that you will be extremely popular in the first few weeks at your new school, so don’t be shy and enjoy the attention!”

ApichayaApichaya is from a scenic Thai, beachy province called Songkhla (‘the city of lions’ referring to a lion-shaped mountain near the city).  It is surrounded by blue waters and borders with Malaysia. With a mother who is Vietnamese, Apichaya decided to come to Vietnam to explore the country and culture that makes up half of her and stay with her grandmother.  One of the things Apichaya misses about her home town is the old traditions of ‘Bin-tha-bath’ where, every so often, she and her family would visit the monasteries with some food to donate to the monks. After 9 months of being away from Songkhla, Apichaya is slowly enjoying life as a student in Ho Chi Minh City.  She feels lucky that her mother taught her Vietnamese because the language has helped her to connect with the people and feel less of a stranger in Vietnam.  School has been an important part of helping her to settle well with supportive teachers and helpful friends.  The modern teaching methods at School have fostered in her a new love for learning.  Contrary to many state schools in Songkhla where the average class size is 50 and rote learning is the norm, Apichaya now understands how Algebra works and why some chemicals react, without the need to memorise everything.  Apichaya’s biggest achievement has been learning Chinese as a foreign language at School and scoring top marks in her end of term assessment.  Her tips for having a good start to life in Ho Chi Minh City are: “try ‘bánh flan’, a sweet caramel dessert and start your day with a ‘cà phê sữa đá’!”.