Vietnam has a rich 2,000-year history. During our journey we’ll examine the traditional heritage of Vietnam — a synthesis of indigenous cultures with Chinese culture and religion — while observing its modern transformation under French colonial rule, Communist revolution, American intervention and recent globalization.
Through guest speakers and site visits we’ll gain an appreciation of Vietnamese civilization and an understanding of how French colonialism and Communism transformed the country. We’ll also observe and experience contemporary life and culture.
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Given the US involvement in Vietnam’s recent history, it’s easy to forget that the country has a rich history going back thousands of years. The country is full of stunning landscapes, excellent food, striking architecture, vibrant religious traditions, and much more.
On this learning adventure you’ll encounter beautiful architecture, including buildings, bridges, and temples, experience centuries-long cultural traditions, imbibe in food with influences from China and France and that varies from region to region, view breathtaking natural beauty, and learn about Vietnam’s rich history and recent changes.
Dave and Pat Van Wylen are veteran group travel leaders, having led both student and adult study travel programs. Their first venture with adults was in 2015 when they led a sustainability-themed activity-based (mostly biking) program in the Netherlands. More recently, they led programs in Patagonia in 2022 and in New Zealand in 2017 and 2019. With students, they have led semester abroad programs in Asia (1998), the Middle East (2008), and Australia (2013). Dave has also taught three January interims in Peru (Peruvian Medical Experience), six interims of Cardiac Surgery and Research at Emory University in Atlanta, plus a summer Tanzania Global Health experience. Pat assisted on most of these interims as well as on an interim Health Care and Culture course in Hawaii/Micronesia.
Dave (Biology) and Pat (International and Off-Campus Studies) worked for 21 years at St. Olaf before moving to Holland, Michigan, where Dave initially served as the Dean for Natural and Applied Sciences at Hope College and now directs Hope’s Office of Possibilities. Pat coordinated Hope College adult travel programs and now runs her own business, A Little Assist, working with seniors.
Dave and Pat graduated from St. Olaf College. Dave later received his Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Michigan (Go Blue) and Pat completed master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia in health administration and exercise physiology. They are delighted to lead another learning and activity-rich St. Olaf adult study travel program.
This program was custom designed to learn a bit about Vietnam’s rich history, from north to south. We’ll examine the synthesis of indigenous cultures with Chinese culture and religion, while observing the country’s modern transformation.
We start in Hanoi to see the capital city, then spend a few days in the former imperial capital of Hue, while also visiting addressing the more modern history of the Vietnam/American War by visiting the DMZ, tunnels, and national cemetery. Then it’s on to the more relaxing city of Hoi An before flying to cosmopolitan Saigon. The optional extension takes place entirely in Siem Reap where we experience the incredible Angkor Wat complex as well as other temples.
You can view and print the most up-to-date itinerary here
You’ll get the most out of study travel if you research what to do during your free time. This allows you to reap the benefits of group travel, while also customizing the tour to your interests and activity level. Read more about How to Be an Independent Group Traveler.
Movement between cities will be by air-conditioned private motor coach. Movement within each city and at cultural/historic sites will be on foot, requiring a lot of walking and standing. To fully participate you should be capable of walking up to five miles per day over uneven terrain, of climbing stairs that may not have handrails, of climbing in and out of various types of transportation, of keeping pace with an active group of travelers on long days of traveling, of dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing different cultures, and of traveling with a group for several hours each day. Any participant who has demonstrated an inability, in the opinion of the tour leader, of keeping up with the group or of safely participating in program activities may be prohibited from participating in certain activities.
Hotels will be tourist class (four-star or superior rating) with private baths, air conditioning, and English-speaking staff.
St. Olaf recommends you be fully vaccinated, with relevant boosters, against COVID-19. You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, see our General Health Information and visit cdc.gov or who.int.
Core Vietnam Tour
The tour price is $4,378 per person, based on double occupancy. Inclusions and exclusions vary from tour to tour. Please read the following information carefully.
Inclusions: discussions led by Dave and Pat Van Wylen, a dedicated national guide, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, flight from Hanoi to Hue, flight from Da Nang to Saigon, ground transportation during the tour, gratuities to group guides, drivers, and meal servers, and some limited medical coverage while overseas. For single occupancy, add $450.
Exclusions: Airfare to and from Vietnam is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the tour fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: airfare between your home town and Vietnam, airport transfers in your home town, required entry visa (about $25), any recommended immunizations or vaccinations, baggage insurance, trip cancellation insurance above $2,000 lifetime coverage, beverages at group meals, laundry, dry cleaning, phone charges, room service or other items of a personal nature, expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities, lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on tour itinerary.
Optional Cambodia Extension
The extension price is $931 per person, based on double occupancy. Inclusions and exclusions vary from tour to tour. Please read the following information carefully.
Inclusions: discussions led by Dave and Pat Van Wylen, a dedicated national guide, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, flight from Saigon to Siem Reap, ground transportation during the tour, gratuities to group guides, drivers, and meal servers, and some limited medical coverage while overseas. For single occupancy, add $80.
Exclusions: Airfare from Cambodia to your home town is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the tour fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: airfare between your home town and Cambodia, airport transfers in your home town, required entry visa (about $35), any recommended immunizations or vaccinations, baggage insurance, trip cancellation insurance above $2,000 lifetime coverage, beverages at group meals, laundry, dry cleaning, phone charges, room service or other items of a personal nature, expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities, lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on tour itinerary.
A $500 deposit secures your space. See the full Payment and Refund Schedule below.
This schedule is based on payments St. Olaf College must make to tour vendors to guarantee group rates. We highly recommend that you purchase additional trip cancellation insurance at the time of registration to recover your payments should you need to withdraw from the tour.
Because of ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it is possible that a tour could be postponed. In such a case, while we will strive to make full refunds when we can, there are certain expenses that may not be refunded to either St. Olaf or the participant.
Deposit due: $500 upon registration
Refund if you cancel: Full refund ($500) until June 14, 2023. If the deposit is made after June 14, 2023 there is no refund.
Interim payment due: $1,000 by June 15, 2023
Refund if you cancel: $500 until November 30, 2023
Final payment due: December 1, 2023
Refund: None, unless the tour is full and your place can be resold
Cancellations must be in writing.
Look closely at the Trip Information Sheet, which includes information on obtaining the e-visa that you need for both Vietnam and Cambodia.
Browse the Resource List, which some travelers use to jumpstart their education on Vietnam and others use to continue learning after the tour.
Review the latest information on recommended immunizations, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Check your passport: ensure that it has at least 6 months’ validity past the program return date and at least one blank visa page. A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Vietnam. U.S. citizens can apply online for a single entry e-visa. We’ll provide instructions on this option closer to departure.
Take time to Prepare for your adventure by checking out a variety of resources, including frequently asked questions, general health information, included travel insurance, a safety overview, and more.