Leah: Summer in Ho Chi Minh City

Leah Phan is a University of Florida student studying abroad for Summer C 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  To learn more about her program, click here: CET – Ho Chi Minh City.


  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    I am currently a sophomore majoring in Biology; however, this fall semester, I will be officially majoring in Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience in hopes of pursing a career in the mental health field.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    I have traveled to Vietnam and occasionally Canada to visit family members. Last summer, I took a family vacation to Vietnam and had the opportunity of visiting my grandmother. Her passion, as well as my own, is to volunteer. So, we visited orphanages, nursing homes, a mental institution, and homes of bedridden individuals. It was a humbling, rewarding experience and I look forward to visiting these places again when I have the opportunity to visit again this summer.
  • Have you studied abroad before? If so, where and what did you study?
    This will be my first time studying abroad.
  • Where are you studying abroad and why did you choose to study there?
    I choose to study in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with CET Public Health & Service Learning Program. I am a Vietnamese-American, and my family had to endure the hardships of the Vietnam War, I thought it would be an interesting since one of the Public Health courses offered in this program discusses the health implication that the Vietnam War had on the residents. Personally, this is something that effected my family, since I lost my maternal grandfather during this time. This took a toll on my mother’s side of the family, since my grandmother was unable to find a job, causing her to pan handle for food, money, and other basic necessities. It was no easy feat for a jobless, single-mother to raise eight children on her own, especially since one of my uncles is schizophrenic. However, due to the generosity of people in my grandmother’s village, she has taught all of her children and grandchildren how important it is to give back to others, especially since she has received so much throughout her life. Now, I yearn to return that same favor by volunteering in my family’s home country and dedicate my time and service to help the those in need. Additionally, this program has an internship component and I hope to gain one at a Pediatrics Cardiology Clinic; however, I would be happy anywhere. While studying, I will simultaneously improve my Vietnamese and hope to one day serve as a translator for the Vietnamese community especially with their health needs. Growing up and serving as a translator for my parents was very difficult because I only knew what my parents taught me growing up, so Vietnamese health terminology was out of the questions. However, knowing how vital someone’s health is, I think it is so important to be able to communicate with someone so that they know what challenges they are facing and why they are occurring so they can improve their health is so crucial, which is why I am so eager to improve my Vietnamese. There are many reasons why I chose to study abroad, but these were the two factors that lead me to choose Vietnam in particular.
  • What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program?
    The adventure —I look forward to volunteering, learning to accept humility,  meeting new people, and challenging myself every day while I’m abroad.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    Arts and crafts has been a hobby of mine since I was young. I love to sculpt, with paper in particular because it is an extremely flexible medium that is easily accessible and does not require expensive equipment. I’m also currently attempting to learn calligraphy on my own, which has been quite challenging.

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