Faculty Abroad: Dr. Paul Jantz Fulbright Check-In
Faculty Abroad: Dr. Paul Jantz Fulbright Check-In
Dr. Paul Jantz | April 8, 2019
How do I even begin to summarize the first eight months of a ten-month Fulbright Scholar Grant experience in a single short article? Well, maybe I should start by introducing myself: “Chào các bạn tôi tên là Pôn. Tôi là người mỹ và tôi là học giả Fulbright. Tôi là phó giao sư đại học bang Texas và tôi là nghiên cứu viên. Tôi rất vui khi ở đây. Cảm ơn vì đã cho tôi cơ hội làm việc với các bạn.”
I speak these tiếng Việt (Vietnamese [language]) words before every lecture, seminar, workshop, or presentation I give here in Việt Nam. They roughly translate to: “Hello everyone, my name is Paul. I am an American and a Fulbright Scholar. I am an associate professor at Texas State University and a researcher. I am very pleased to be here and I want to thank you for having given me the opportunity to work with you today.”
These tiếng Việt words not only reflect who I am, they also offer a small window into one aspect of my Fulbright Scholar Grant journey thus far. Within a week of my July 27, 2018 arrival in Hà Nội, Việt Nam, and hoping I was closely approximating the proper tonal pronunciation, I began nervously greeting professional audiences and people I met on the street with the very formal “Xin chào” (“hello”). Eight months later, after many tiếng Việt language lessons, my greeting to people in every day life has become much more colloquial and my professional introduction has evolved beyond a simple “hello”. Although my basic conversational vocabulary has grown enough to allow me to order food, give simple directions to cab drivers, and carry on a very brief conversation with my barber, it has only been during the last two months that I feel I have finally begun to master the six different tiếng Việt language tones. I must add, however that I use the term “master” quite loosely and my tiếng Việt has a northern accent to it (in the south there are five tones used, not six). This video illustrates the difference between a northern and southern accent quite well.
In addition to taking weekly tiếng Việt language lessons, during the past eight months I have helped my host university’s Faculty of Psychology develop two master’s degree training programs – one for school psychology and one for geropsychology. In addition, I have been invited to give lectures, seminars, workshops, and presentations at my host university, as well as, at psychology, education, engineering, technology, and medical departments at other universities in Hà Nội and across Việt Nam. I have also presented at the American Center located in the U.S. Embassy Consulate here in Hà Nội. In addition to these wonderful sharing/teaching opportunities, in November 2018 I was asked to present a keynote speech for one of the Việt Nam National Teachers’ Day celebration ceremonies held at my host university (Việt Nam National University - University of Social Sciences and Humanities).
I recently began a collaborative research study with a colleague at my host university. In this study, we are examining the relationship between various aspects of the Confucian-Buddhist influenced người Việt (Vietnamese [people]) culture and the lack of motorbike helmet use in children. This research project is especially relevant to Việt Nam. Motorbikes and motorized three-wheelers are the main mode of transportation in Việt Nam, accounting for 95% of all registered vehicles. Not surprisingly, because only 1 in 3 children in Việt Nam wear helmets while riding motorbikes and children under 7 are not required by law to wear a helmet, 60% of hospital admissions for children aged 5-19 are for brain injuries received during motorbike accidents. The vast majority of individuals who survive a moderate or severe TBI in Việt Nam will experience significant difficulties and not return to work or school.
In order to present an invited seminar titled “Traumatic brain injury: The clinical interview” at the Sixth Conference on School Psychology: The Role of School Psychology in Promoting Well-being of Students and Families that was held August 1-3, 2018 in Hà Nội, I arrived in Việt Nam six weeks before my Fulbright Scholar Grant officially began. In the months that followed, I was fortunate to be able to attend three additional informative international conferences: the International Seminar on the Compilation of the New History Textbook at the School Level: The Việt Nam Situation and International Experiences; the International Conference on Bach Dang and the Tran Dynasty in the 13th Century Global Context; and the Cross-border Cooperation in Water Resources Management: The Case of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.
One of Senator J. William Fulbright’s goals for the Fulbright Program was “to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs, and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship”. In this spirit, I have visited the Vietnam Friendship Village Project USA (VFVP-USA) located on the outskirts of Hà Nội and engaged in challenging and difficult discussions. The VFVP-USA, is funded entirely by donations from military veterans from the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Việt Nam. VFVP-USA is a treatment facility for adults and children who are directly affected by the 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (dioxin) that was contained in Agents Orange, Pink, Green, or Purple. For up to three months at a time, the VFVP-USA treats as many as 50 male and female north Vietnamese war veterans who served during the “American War” (or the “Việt Nam War” as we know it). In addition, for up to a maximum of five years per child, the VFVP-USA provide educational and vocational training services to 150 children at a time who suffer from the devastating congenital effects of dioxin. These effects include: cancers, severe cognitive impairments, and severe birth deformities. The VFVP-USA is now beginning to provide services to fourth generation children.
Senator Fulbright also said: “I have thought of everything I can think of, and the one thing that gives me some hope is the ethos that underlies the educational exchange program. That ethos, in sum, is the belief that international relations can be improved, and the danger of war significantly reduced, by producing generations of leaders, especially in the big countries, who through the experience of educational exchange, will have acquired some feeling and understanding of other peoples' cultures--why they operate as they do, why they think as they do, why they react as they do--and of the differences among these cultures." As a Fulbright cultural ambassador, I have taken this ethos to heart. I attend a weekly “English Club” at my host university, comprised of faculty members from the Faculty of Psychology, where we discuss the culture of Việt Nam and the U.S. I also engage in planned and impromptu discussions with students over cups of tea, coffee, and/or food and with the aid of a translation app on my phone, and my limited tiếng Việt, I have done my best to engage taxi drivers in cultural discussions as I ride around Hà Nội. In addition, my lectures, seminars, and workshops include elements of cultural exchange, be it the presentation topic or the Q & A sessions that follow. Finally, I have made the cultural aspect of my Fulbright Scholar experience the focus of my blog, “Xin chào, Hà Nội!”. By placing this blog on my Texas State faculty webpage ), I have made it publicly available to my students, program, department, college, and the greater TXST community. It is also available to the students and faculty at my host university here in Hà Nội.
I would be remiss in the report of my Fulbright Scholar grant experience if I did not say how much the faculty members and administrators at my host university (the Việt Nam National University - University of Social Sciences and Humanities), my host department (the Faculty of Psychology) and the students of VNU-USSH have made me feel welcome and included during the past eight months. I have been involved in academic discussions, invited to attend departmental meetings, and consulted by faculty and students regarding research projects. The invitations to lunches, dinners, faculty retreats, student ceremonies and celebrations, research presentations, family outings, holiday activities, museums, pagodas, parks, and historical sites are just too many to mention.
I am excited to see what the remainder of my Fulbright Scholar Grant experience brings me in the next four months, as up to this point in time, I has been beyond my wildest expectations! It is said that all good things must come to an end. My Fulbright Scholar Grant experience is no exception. Although my grant officially ends on July 5, 2019, I will stay in Việt Nam an additional three weeks to travel in the region and more importantly, spend time with the many, many friends I have made here.
Tôi sẽ sớm gặp lại các bạn! (I will see you all in the near future!)