I am happy it was not just a dream

University for industry, Hanoi (HaUI), in a classroom

It’s Saturday night. I’ve settled in well in the VPV House, rejoicing every single day over the excellent food prepared twice daily for us volunteers. In general, it consists of rice and a variety of  pots of vegetables, meat and other delicacies, from which to help oneself at will.

As early as my first week at the Hanoi University of Industry (HaUI) I already got to know several teachers and students. It’s incredible how grateful they all are for the opportunity to speak English with a “foreigner”.

University of Industry, Hanoi (HaUI)
University of Industry, Hanoi (HaUI)

My units are optional, meaning they run in addition to the ‘normal’ lessons.

For my first lesson, 25 students were designated, yet quite a few who were not on the list, showed up as well. The idea that any student willing to learn should not be allowed to participate, seemed absurd, and I managed to convince the coordinator not to send anyone away, which is how I came to hold the first unit with 33 students.

Group of students after class
Group of students after class

In order to “break the ice a little” I have gotten into the habit of first introducing myself in Vietnamese. Given my very modest vocabulary, we have to switch to English after only two sentences.

My efforts are, above all, aimed at encouraging the students to talk. This is usually successful, and we chat about Mozart, Vienna & Hanoi.

In order not to stifle the conversation, emerging after initial shyness, in the bud, I raise no objections, even though my English skills are sufficient to detect errors. Instead, I take pleasure in the gradual emergence of confidence among the students, and their attention.

I always finish the first lessons for all classes such, that we invent a story. First, everybody writes one word on a piece of paper.

I start off the story with: “Yesterday I had a funny dream”. The students then continue the story, each just adding one sentence which has to contain the word he / she put down before.

In that manner, we have developed monster tales and ‘love stories’ alike.

The end of the story is also contributed by me. I usually have the alarm clock ring. Then again, no alarm should abruptly end a nice love story. And so I had to make an impromptu modification:

“I am happy it was not just a dream …”.

Starting from my initial sentence „Yesterday I had a funny dream“, students create a story, in this case a ‚love story‘. The end is my contribution, as well. Usually I have the alarm clock go off. In order not to undo this sweet tale, I had to improvise quickly: „I am happy it was just not a dream …“.
Starting from my initial sentence „Yesterday I had a funny dream“, students create a story, in this case a ‚love story‘. The end is my contribution, as well. Usually I have the alarm clock go off. In order not to undo this sweet tale, I had to improvise quickly: „I am happy it was just not a dream …“.

The students, I hope, have realized in these few hours, that they need not be shy. And what did I get to take with me – hopefully at least some of the enthusiasm, the spirit and the kindness that I was privileged to experience in those few days, so far with an intensity rarely felt before.

Translation from German: Serena Nebo

Credits

Image Title Author License
University for industry, Hanoi (HaUI), in a classroom University for industry, Hanoi (HaUI), in a classroom Thomas Farthofer CC BY-SA 4.0
I am happy it was not just a dream I am happy it was not just a dream Thomas Farthofer CC BY-SA 4.0
University for industry, Hanoi (HaUI) University for industry, Hanoi (HaUI) Thomas Farthofer CC BY-SA 4.0