The charming Vietnamese capital of Hanoi has aged well, preserving the Old Quarters, monuments, and colonial architecture while making room for modern developments. Hanoi's lakes, parks, shady boulevards, and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city.
Local cuisine specialties, exotic street food, and numerous dance and music clubs liven up the scene.
On This Page
History at your fingertips in Vietnam
Civilization in Vietnam has its own unique style, forged through years of resistance to threats from larger and more powerful nations. This determination to remain independent has created a culture of self-reliance, discipline, and solidarity still visible in public life today.
Conversations with ordinary Vietnamese people about the past and future of their nation permit IPSL students to understand this culture and people in a deeper, more meaningful way. All we can say is, "Go now!"
As the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, Hanoi is considered one of the main cultural centers of Vietnam. The city, like most of the country, is in the throes of fast and furious development driven by a young population of energetic and creative Vietnamese. It is a place where the history is colliding with the future and exciting things are happening!
Meet the IPSL Program Director, Mr. Don Tuan Phuong
Phuong was born in 1976 in a rural part of Hanoi Capital. He moved to study in Hanoi when he was 15.
Previously a lecturer in Hanoi National University, he has also worked for several international NGOs in Vietnam in different fields including agro-forestry, rural development, hunger elimination and poverty reduction, children and education, public health, and the environment.
Phuong founded Volunteers for Peace Vietnam in 2005 with the mission to promote international volunteer exchange. Later he also founded the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS), which promotes education for sustainable development. CSDS supports disadvantaged communities and offers opportunities for youth engagement and service learning. CSDS received the National Volunteers Award and the UN’s Award for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.
Phuong has extensive experience in international volunteer exchange and intercultural learning. He has visited almost 40 different countries around the world and he likes meeting people from different backgrounds.
Community Organizing and Social Activism (COSA)
Learn the practical skills to be an active agent of change and social justice. Study the many international efforts in history, learn from these efforts and use them to develop a personal ethic of service, advocacy and civic engagement. COSA will teach you the skills of community organizing and will empower you to create sustainable change in your own communities.
Now more than ever...
There is a clear and pressing need to engage with our world in an ACTIVE way. The world needs leaders (this means YOU!) to fight for social justice and equal rights. Are you up for the challenge? Then be a part of IPSL - the only study abroad program working to create sustainable change though social justice advocacy!
Academic immersion focused on real cultural understanding
IPSL students learn first-hand about Sustainable Development and Global Political Systems while in Vietnam. Extensive excursions are both integrated into the courses as well as offered outside of class time. Our program treats fascinating Vietnam as your living classroom!
On the IPSL Hanoi program you will take courses at CSDS (The Center for Sustainable Development Services) that will include COSA in Vietnam (Community Organizing and Social Activism) as well as a Vietnamese Language Course and your chosen electives An official transcript for all courses is issued by IPSL Institute for Global Learning upon successful completion of the program.
Language of Instruction: English
Affiliated Institution: Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS)
Official transcript issued by IPSL Institute for Global Learning
The program welcomes students of any nation who have a high school diploma or equivalent credential. TOEFL equivalent 550.
Courses & Credits
COSA in Vietnam (Community Organizing and Social Activism)
Vietnamese Language (taken as "Language Across the Curriculum")
Environmental Science and Sustainable Development
Global Health and the Environment
Politics and Policy of Development
Sustainable Business in a Globalized World
Globalization and Social Justice
Advocacy Research Independent Study
Opportunities for substantive service (12 - 15 hours per week) are generally available in the following areas:
Services to disadvantaged children, orphans and street children
English language consulting and/or tutoring
Volunteer and youth development
Eco-tourism program development
Women's empowerment programs
Students live in modern dorm/student housing at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS). The dorms accommodate both international and Vietnamese students and volunteers.
All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven (7) days per week) are included and served at the CSDS center. Self-serve Western-style breakfast and Vietnamese lunch and dinner are offered.
COSA Dates & Fees
Please inquire as we can customize to most any schedule and budget!
Tuition and academic fees
Books and materials
International student dorm housing
Partial board in dorm only
On-site and online orientation and pre-departure materials
Service placement and supervision
Some local transportation
Room and full board
What's NOT Included
Passport; visa fees (secured in country upon arrival with assistance from onsite program staff)
Additional local personal transportation
Local cell phone
Travel and Excursions that Broaden Your Perspective
Travel is an essential part of studying abroad. Taking knowledge from the classroom and applying it through direct observation allows for greater classroom comprehension and cultural understanding.
Excursions MAY include SOME of the following options. IPSL students in Vietnam may also work with program staff on-site to arrange for independent travel to other areas of Vietnam.
Hanoi City Tour
The IPSL Hanoi program normally includes a city tour of Hanoi included in the arrival orientation. Depending on the time of the year, it may include a visit to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi - the final resting place of the leader's body is preserved here in a glass case (albeit against his wishes). Ho Chi Minh is the most popular leader of Vietnam and known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’.
Bat Trang Ceramic Village
The Bat Trang pottery village is one of the most famous of the craft villages in Vietnam. It is famous for its fired clay pottery (with a temperature of 1,200 degrees, the ceramics are well known for being difficult to break). Since the 15th century this village has been creating earthenware and ceramic creations. Visiting Bat Trang village is a chance to experience Vietnamese tradition and understand the usual life of Vietnamese people in the countryside.
Duong Lam Village & Ba Vi National Park
This traditional village preserves various cultural and historical vestiges in Duong Lam such as: the worship-house, Mong Phu communal house, the Princess Mia Palace and Temple, the Mia pagoda, and others. Pass by the village and enjoy local products such as rice wine and rice cakes before heading to Ba Vi National Park.
Ba Vi National Park
This is one of Vietnam’s most famous areas of outstanding natural beauty, and is centered around a three-peaked mountain jutting steeply out of the landscape. The national park offers a great escape from the city with cool fresh mountain air in a mystical atmospheric backdrop of clouds, jungle and tropical rainforest. There is also a spa resort nestled at the foot of the mountain offering a host of natural therapies in an absolutely stunning setting.
Bat Trang Ceramic Village, Hanoi, Vietnam
Bai-Dinh and Tam Coc
A visit to Bai Dinh opens a window into the multi-faceted history of religion in Vietnam. The Bai Dinh pagoda region includes the ancient pagoda area and a new pagoda area. New pagoda has monumental but traditionally designed architecture which is symbolic of the blend of old and new which is Vietnam today. New Bai Dinh pagoda is honored as the largest pagoda in Southeast Asia.
The ancient Bai Dinh Pagoda is in a beautiful mountainous region which includes Dinh Mountain. This pagoda is located near the top of a quiet forested area and includes a Buddhist cave, the temple of God Cao Son, and the temple of Nguyen. The pagoda is a significant Vietnamese historical, cultural and religious site.
The Tam Coc (“three caves”) portion is a three-hour excursion by small boat along the river, beginning at the village of Van Lam and proceeding through a scenic landscape dominated by rice fields and karst towers. The route includes floating through three natural caves, the largest of which is 125m long with its ceiling about 2m high above the water.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Additional academic excursions may include:
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - named a UNESCO World Heritage Site just in time for Hanoi’s millennial anniversary in 2010. The ancient site was the political center of the country for 13 consecutive centuries and served as the capital of Vietnam for eight centuries.
Ha Long Bay - A stunning natural wonder in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border. The Bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sq km. This extraordinary area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Ethical Service in Vietnam
As an IPSL service-learning participant in Hanoi, Vietnam, you will have the opportunity to perform volunteer service in one of several local partner organizations/agencies. IPSL does its best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others.
You will play a role not only by actively participating with a determined role among the team members, but also by enriching the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work. Therefore, each project or program is improved and enriched with your participation. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away.
Service-Learning versus Internship/Practicum
IPSL service-learning placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Central to the philosophy of service-learning is the notion of service.
Service-learning is not the same as an internship or practicum although it may look very similar. The service in service-learning may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his or her future profession. In contrast, in service-learning, the outcome of the student's work - that is, the service - is as important as the student’s learning. There are - or should be - identifiable benefits to those served. This reciprocity is a key component in international service-learning.
IPSL Service Placements
IPSL's service-learning placements are in agencies that have sprung up from the grassroots, where locals have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. What they need is additional assistance of all kinds from the outside.
IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your work is important, but your individual contributions may not be visible for many years. Change takes time. In the meantime, you are fulfilling a need, and the need is huge.
A single agency may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service) so that the agency can one day experience more stability in the delivery of its services. Either way, both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals. Each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. And this is as it should be.
Nothing says "I'm a partner in your community" more than a willingness on the part of a service-learning™ participant not only to do higher tasks, but also occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans, and build relationships based on equality. That is why many of the service agencies with which we work have been our partners for years.
The IPSL website lists areas of service, and a few examples for each program site. This list is not exhaustive, nor static. The types of work listed do not each represent a distinct agency; they represent the types of work that IPSL participants can expect to encounter at the different service agencies with which we work.
The number and selection of service agencies may change at any time. Sometimes there are logistical (transportation, scheduling, etc.) issues that arise that complicate certain service agency placements and make them unworkable. Sometimes students need to be proficient in the local language in order to serve in a particular agency. Also, we do not place too many students in any one agency. Doing so would undermine the immersion environment for which IPSL programs are known.