Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Beauty of Vietnamese landscape, culture draw Lycoming College art students

Beauty of Vietnamese landscape, culture draw Lycoming College art students

Lycoming’s Vietnamese guide for the Hanoi portion of the trip, Long, demonstrates how to properly drink tea in the home of a family in Cap village, a village of Dao ethnic minority, near Hoa Binh.

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The beauty of the Vietnamese countryside, the breathtaking pace of bustling cities and the cultural differences drew the attention of art students from Lycoming College who traveled to the Asian country. Several professors accompanied the students to teach classes in photography, drawing and painting.

“The country itself was so breathtakingly beautiful and the people were so friendly and receptive,” said Erin Briggs, an upcoming junior with a major in photography and commercial design. “Although learning about the history of art in a communist country was interesting, my favorite part of the trip was interacting with the people. I learned so much about the culture and the people. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.”

The trip was part of several May Term art courses that ran for three weeks in Vietnam and ended with another week on campus to complete portfolio projects. Art courses included drawing, painting, design, photography and Asian Art History.

“Traveling exposes artists to a different culture and historical viewpoint. The experience broadens our perspective and informs the artistic spirit,” said Howard Tran, an art professor at Lycoming College who organized the trip. “To create art that’s relevant, you need to appreciate issues from a well-rounded vantage point. Traveling with my students is special because I get to see them really immersed in the culture and history of the place we’re exploring.”

Tran’s family emigrated from Vietnam to the United States when he was 12 years old. “I get a yearning to return to my homeland. I go there to reconnect, to keep the longing at bay. My art is connected to my background so reconnecting with my past is important.”

Journeying from North to South Vietnam by bus, boats, kayaks, rickshaws and on foot, the group explored the cities of Hanoi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon, and the countryside surrounding them. Students met with local high school and college students and faculty, as well as accomplished artists and gallery owners. Several of the artists invited them to their studios to discuss their recent work and what it means to them. Along with visiting several world-famous art museums, students also toured Ho Chi Minh's home and The War Remnants Museum.

“We were warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese, despite the reminders of the Vietnam War that we came across throughout our journey,” said Sami Cutrona, an upcoming junior with a major in photography. “Learning the Vietnamese perspective on the war was eye opening and visiting battlefields gave me a new perspective that I would not have had without actually being in Vietnam. The trip also allowed me to observe an Asian communist lifestyle and think more analytically about the culture of the United States.”

One of the highlights of the trip included an overnight stay on a sailboat in HaLong Bay, exploring coves, lagoons, hidden caves and white-sand beaches. Students also enjoyed the floating villages and markets in Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta, biking the narrow pathways of an island in the delta, visiting a bamboo forest and rice fields, staying overnight with a local family and learning to cook local cuisine.

They toured the Bút Tháp pagoda, which was built in the 13th century and reconstructed in the 17th century and is famous for the Buddhist statue of a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. They also explored the Presidential Palace and discussed the role of Vietnamese nationalism, and visited the French-built Hoa Lo Prison, a prison for prisoners of war that is now an interactive museum. The Temple of Literature, built in the 11th century as the country’s first university, gave the students new perspective about Lycoming College being one of the oldest colleges in the U.S.

The group also visited the cities of Hoi An and Hanoi. While in Hanoi, they participated in a reunion with Lycoming College Vietnamese alumni who provided students with insider views of their country. Vietnamese exchange students showed the Americans the best clubs in Ho Chi Minh City.

Students who participated included:
Erin Briggs
Kendyl Cartagena
Conor Chopey
Samantha Cutrona
Emma Daniels
Hannah DiMattia
Alexander Fedigan
Reilly Groder
Carissa Guthrie
Jetta Harrison
Bryan McGinnis
Jacob Merkel
Jennifer Monico
Kelly Pankowski
Rachel Parthemer
Madison Ramsey
Tracy Robinson
Mackenzie Thomson
Julie White

Other professors on the trip included Lynn Estomin, Seth Goodman, Antonia Crook and David Burke. The Lycoming College art department plans a trip to another country every other year and has traveled to China, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, France, Jamaica and Central America, where they visited Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.

“The trip is partially about seeing a new environment,” said Tran. “It’s really more about understanding others and how they view their country. The experience gives a vibrancy to our students’ work that they cannot gain from only looking at photos or reading books. They’ve actually lived it.”

Images of work inspired by the trip can be found here:

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