Xin chào from Vietnam!

I am so excited to be updating you about my last couple of months as a United States Fulbright
Scholar in Hà Nội, Vietnam. I am all settled in and find myself comfortable with daily routines at
work and home. Life is good!

Turns out, my Vietnamese colleagues usually work 5 ½ days per week including Saturday
mornings compared to usually a 5-day work week for most people back home! They do,
however, take naps after lunch, so in the end it sums up to about the same work hours per

On the Mekong Delta

My colleagues and I are enjoying our weekly English Club meetings where we have discussions
about academic issues, Vietnamese and American cultures, and practice each other’s
languages. In one of our club meetings, we discussed Vietnamese cuisine where we brought in
and shared our favorite dishes for others to experience. We also discuss cultural bias and
attitudes in order to explain differences in reactions and behaviors with an emphasis on
understanding and empathy. These discussions can be a lot of fun, and are always interesting!
One of our meetings covered differences in health care in Vietnam and the U.S. In Vietnam,
health care quality is similar to that in the US in larger cities with well-trained doctors. However,
in rural areas health care can be quite limited. In both urban and rural areas, the pharmacy
serves as an urgent care clinic, with the pharmacist diagnosing minor illness and injuries and
dispensing medicine, often with no prescription required. Vietnamese usually pay out-of-pocket,
but health care services are much less expensive than those in the U.S. Wealthier Vietnamese
often carry health insurance, which is often sold in combination with life insurance.

In addition to English Club and a number of guest-speaking opportunities in my colleagues’
education courses, I participate in a number of research seminars and workshops. These have
included the Hanoi Forum on Pedagogical and Educational Sciences in which I presented
research on teacher change and professional development. I also gave a seminar on publishing
in international journals, where I discussed how to select appropriate Western journals and
explained tiered journal rankings.

Most recently, I was invited by EducationUSA of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi to give a
presentation on accreditation in American universities to Vietnamese high school counselors.
The goal was to provide a quality check that counselors could use to help their students avoid
“diploma mills” in the US.

It is common for me to be asked to give the “U.S. perspective” on a variety of seemingly random
topics. So anytime I’m invited to an event, I’ve learned that I need to be prepared to speak, even
though the presentations are nearly always in Vietnamese. During one occasion, the speaker
mentioned my name during his presentation which was otherwise in Vietnamese. I asked my
friend sitting next to me what the speaker had said, to which my friend replied: “He introduced
you as the next speaker.” I had no idea that I was speaking that day!

Teacher Change Presentation and Reaction Panel

The university celebrated Teacher’s Day on November 19th, where we enjoyed skits, dances
and songs from the students. I had the opportunity to present a response to the keynote session
saddressing Liberal Art Education philosophy and its relationship to teacher preparation.
Providing the response was a challenge, given that the keynote was delivered entirely in
Vietnamese with no translation! I’ve learned to adopt a can-do Beaver attitude and just do my
best in these situations, and so far that’s been enough! During the celebration I was honored to
give the Handwriting Awards and sing a song with my Vietnamese colleagues. I was even
coerced into trying my hand (or more literally foot) onstage in the Vietnamese bamboo pole
dance performed by our student members of the Muong ethnic group!

Receiving Student Award at the Teachers Day Celebration

Unfortunately, in early December I tested positive for Covid-19 after a short trip to Phú Quốc
Island. I used my week in isolation to assist the U.S. Embassy in evaluating the 29 applications
for the Vietnamese Visiting Scholar Program. Luckily, I was in the clear in time for the applicant
evaluation panel, which took place in the beautiful mountain city of Đà Lạt.

In January, I had the opportunity to visit Olympia Schools, an international school that is
primarily for Vietnamese students. Here, I discussed with partnership executive Đỗ Dương
Hồng Đào the feasibility of the school hosting Oregon State education interns to provide English
and pedagogy support as the school adopts more experiential and inquiry-based learning. Ms.
Đào agreed to write a draft plan for possible internships and then invited me to give a STEM/
STEAM speech to the Olympia students. Later in February, the head of the science department
for Olympia Schools informed me that they could host interns during the annual summer camp
(2 sessions, 4 weeks each). She also offered me the opportunity to conduct a lesson on the
nature of science for students this coming Spring, as well as a workshop on inquiry instruction
for the science teachers. I’m so pleased to have made contact with Olympia schools and for the
enthusiastic reception I have received there.

Fulbright-Sponsored Trip to the Mekong Delta

Mua Caves in Ninh Binh
Núi Cốc Lake Near Thái Nguyên

I had several opportunities to travel and celebrate the Vietnamese holidays. For example, I was
able to visit beautiful Phú Quốc Island and also the northern city of Thái Nguyên where the
faculty and I prepared Bánh Chưng, a type of rice cake prepared for the Tết Holiday. We also
visited Núi Cốc lake and then returned to Hà Nội, where we celebrated the New Year and
watched the firework celebrations from afar. In January, I met with some friends to celebrate my
birthday and visit the War Remnants Museum. The museum displays were both tragic and
enlightening and helped me better understand the suffering the war brought to both sides and
appreciate even more the warm welcome I’ve received from my Vietnamese friends.

In closing, it’s been an incredible experience here in Vietnam and I am very excited for what lies
ahead and will be sending more updates soon!

Tạm biệt bây giờ!

Sunset at Phú Quốc Island

OSU Counseling student Violeta A. Murrieta’s research centers on how school counselors support undocumented students with their social-emotional needs, academic needs, post-secondary options, and community resources. As part of the College of Education’s recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, we interviewed Violeta via email to learn what she’s discovering about the stressors this unique population.

College of Education: Thank you for joining us, Violeta. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what you are studying and researching at Oregon State University?

Violeta: Sure! I am currently a doctoral candidate pursuing a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision here at Oregon State. I have been a school counselor for over nine years and I am licensed in California and Nevada. Currently, I work as an elementary school counselor in the Bay Area. I love being a counselor, I enjoy helping students and working with families. I am passionate about supporting the undocumented population, as a former high school counselor I witnessed the difficulties undocumented students experienced and how difficult it was for them to explore post-secondary options with their status looming over them. When I was accepted in the PhD program, I knew right away I wanted my research to focus on the undocumented population. Therefore, my current studies aim to explore how school counselors support undocumented students with their social-emotional needs, academic needs, and post-secondary options given the unique stressors they experience both in and out of school.

College of Education: Adolescence is a tough time for anyone, but do undocumented students have some unique stressors on them?

Violeta: Undocumented youth absolutely experience additional stressors, such as, adapting to a new culture, language barriers, limited postsecondary and work options, trauma, and fear of deportation amongst other things. Living with this uncertainty can exasperate other issues as well. The stressors that undocumented students face impact all aspects of their life, and this is why I am curious about how school counselors support this population. 

College of Education: What kind of barriers to treatment might a school counselor have when dealing with an undocumented student? 

Violeta: There are many barriers that school counselors face when attempting to support undocumented students. When referring students to mental health services, students and their families are hesitant to seek these resources due to possibly having to disclose their status, lack of insurance, and lack of official identification. Another barrier may be stigma around mental health.

College of Education: The College of Education is doing a lot of research around how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted K-12 schools and students over the last three years. How were undocumented students affected by the pandemic? Did they encounter some challenges unique to their situations?

Violeta: Undocumented families were largely affected by the pandemic, parents and guardians lost their jobs and they were not eligible for government assistance, which resulted in housing and food insecurity.

College of Education: There has always been a stigma around mental health concerns in this country. What can K-12 counselors do to help mitigate feelings of shame or embarrassment among any students who may have emotional or mental health concerns?

Violeta: As a school counselor, it is imperative to normalize feelings from an early age. I present classroom curriculum lessons on social emotional learning to all grade levels. We practice coping strategies and have discussions about how to express our feelings. My hope is that by normalizing this, students will feel more comfortable discussing their feelings and reaching out for help.

College of Education: What’s one big message you’d really like K-12 school personnel to know about mental health and their students?

Violeta: I am a firm believer that in order for students to be successful in school (i.e. academics) we must tend to their mental well-being first. It is important for educators to be knowledgeable about signs of distress. We have the privilege of connecting with students every day, if you recognize or have an inclination that something is wrong, reach out to a school counselor immediately.