President MaryAnn Baenninger Leads Tour of Vietnam

This past January President MaryAnn Baenninger and her husband Ron Baenninger welcomed a group of friends of the College of Saint Benedict on a two week tour of Vietnam. Sponsored by the Benedictine Center for Lifelong Learning, the tour afforded the group an opportunity to view a country that still shows the remnants of a destructive war but has recently managed to experience remarkable economic growth and improve the lives of many of its people.

The group began its tour in Ho Chi Minh City, where they visited a Carmelite Convent, attended Mass at the Cathedral and met with the Archbishop. The city’s vibrant commercial atmosphere testified to the 8% annual growth in GDP that Vietnam has experienced over the past decade. Tourism is an important part of the economy. The group felt welcomed by the Vietnamese people and frequently saw other US and European tourists during their visit. The tour also visited the historic city of Hue in the center of the country. The group visited a university there where they attended a drama class and discussed potential collaboration and exchanges with university officials.

The tour also included a visit to the capital city of Hanoi. There the group visited several sites of significance from the war era like the "Hanoi Hilton" and the tunnel systems constructed in and around the capital. Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and a museum dedicated to the communist leader that preserves his "house on stilts" and "used car garage" were also on the itinerary. A stunning tour of the famous Halong Bay was another highlight as was a visit to a non-profit in Hanoi that provides services to underprivileged children.

Before departing Vietnam, a group of over 50 students, all with an eye toward studying in the United States, met with the tour participants to discuss their hopes for the future. Judging from the talent and dedication of these students, there is no doubt that CSB/SJU will continue to recruit wonderful students from Vietnam in the years to come.