|University of Montana students plant Mangroves as part of the restoration effort in Can Gio Biosphere Reserve [Image: UM student Lione Clare].|
From December 28 to January 19 eight students participated in the seventh Winter Vietnam Study Abroad Program, led by Program Director Nicky Phear. As part of the program, students explored the jungles of Cat Tien, visited an offshore windfarm, stayed at guest houses and a homestay, visited a renewable energy farm, shared traditional home cooked meals with locals, and assisted in Mangrove restoration. Through the program students learnt about the people, culture, environment, and history of Vietnam. They experienced first-hand the effects of climate change and how the people of Vietnam are adapting to them.
The program is administered through the University of Montana’s Mansfield Center in partnership with Can Tho University. It aims to promote better understanding between the people of the United States and Asia. Throughout its existence, the program has sent 75 US students to Vietnam. Students work alongside farmers and other locals to combat climate change in Vietnam, conserve wildlife, and develop eco-tourism.
Montana and Vietnam share similar environmental concerns such as natural resource management, flood and drought mitigation, and the effects of climate change. Increased cooperation and engagement through programs such as this allow the people of Montana and Vietnam to share expertise and knowledge. Over a ten year period, the number of US students studying in Asia doubled. From fall 2014 to summer 2015, 922 students from the United States studied in Vietnam, 15 of these were from Montana. During the same period 21,403 Vietnamese students studied in the US, 11 in Montana. 37 Vietnamese students received Fulbright grants. Vietnamese students studying in Montana during this period contributed approximately $320,000 to the Montanan economy. Exports to Vietnam from Montana totaled $9 million during the 2012-2014 period, while Montana imports from Vietnam reached $2 million in 2015. There are currently 481 Vietnamese-Americans living in Montana.
Tara Duane is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Western Australia.