This summer CSU faculty member Kristie Yelinek is teaching a composition class at the Vietnamese Forestry University (VFU) in the city of Xuan Mai. She has been recording her experiences teaching and traveling around Vietnam in a blog, “Teaching and Other Adventures: Vietnam.” 

When Kristie first arrived at the Vietnamese Forestry University (VFU), she was asked to teach an additional class for students who could voluntarily join. Here is an excerpt from her blog about her last day teaching this class:


 Kristie with students

For our last class, we did some grammar work on parallel sentence structure, as well as some fun work with mood. Then, we took some pictures and they invited me to join them for drinks in the evening. After class, one of the students walked to the pharmacy next to the university with me and helped me buy more gauze for the burn on my leg (an exhaust pipe burn from a motorbike). It’s amazing to me how well my students take care of me. I know part of it is the respect they have for teachers and native English speakers in general, but I’d also like to think it’s because they just plain like me 🙂

Then, after dinner, one of the students picked me up on his motorbike and I joined them for fruit smoothies and iced coffee. I was truly touched by time we spent together tonight. Nine of them showed up and they were all very thoughtful about speaking English most of the time (as it got closer to time to leave and they were getting tired, they spoke more Vietnamese, but not much). They asked a lot of questions about me and my life and told me a lot about their plans for the future and where they were from. They all told me how much they had enjoyed the class with me and they wished that I could come back to teach them again next year.

I have to admit that I also really enjoyed teaching this class. Obviously the group was self-selecting in that they didn’t have to take the class and were taking time out of their busy class schedules (six total) to take an extra class. They were motivated to work and in the end the 9-10 most dedicated were the ones who stuck it out for the seven weeks. We were able to have a bit of fun in class and I really enjoyed not having to give them a grade! I gave feedback on writing they turned in, but I could reward each student for what they did well through my comments and could do the same for the areas they needed to improve without having to put a value on their work.

Two of the students gave me small gifts, which I truly appreciated. In Vietnam, giving gifts is a huge deal and a sign of appreciation. Teaching students like this and being able to interact with them on more of a personal level is definitely one of the biggest reasons I teach (and why I want to teach English and international students). With all of the frustration that has come from teaching here, this class, these students, and the experience tonight is already a huge bright spot in my time at VFU.

A little gecko helping Kristie to grade papers 🙂