Let’s go to Vietnam

It is time. I didn’t expect it to happen neither so late nor so early. I am going to Vietnam for several months, living and learning the culture and if possible tying to get a position in my respective field. Here is how the past month looked like:


My desire to visit Vietnam started in 2019. After returning from Japan, I was disappointed that I didn’t know enough about my own culture to even converse on the same level as a tourist. I had planned to visit Vietnam after finishing my thesis, but an unexpected turn of events happened in early December 2022. Our Japanese teacher asked if anyone wanted to participate in a two-week cultural exchange program with the Yamanashi University in Japan, offering a full scholarship with only the cost of the flight required. The application process was just a simple Google Forms questionnaire. To be honest, I did not count on being admitted. Jokingly i was thinking, if i would get into Japan, why not connect it with Vietnam while I’m in Asia? And to my surprise, I was accepted to the program on December 27th, which would be set to start on February 14th. Well now that joke became an opportunity which would soon become reality.

December 2022: Preparation & Checklist

At first, I was torn about taking a spontaneous trip to Vietnam. With the notice coming between Christmas and New Year, many government offices were closed, leaving me with numerous questions. How would I manage my room in the shared apartment? Could I continue my thesis while overseas? What were the necessary bureaucratic procedures I needed to follow as a German citizen? These questions left me feeling overwhelmed and afraid of the unknown. The first few days were filled with restless sleep as I struggled with my decision.

My Checklist:

  • Study Related Concerns
    • staying enrolled
    • access to compute power
    • writing my thesis and having the necessary office applications
    • VPN to Germany
  • Health Related Concerns
    • dentist
    • travel insurance
    • travel medication
    • vaccination
  • Travel Related Concerns
    • Visa
    • international drivers license
  • Current Life
    • quit my job
    • find someone who would take over my room for the duration of the travel

Study Related Concerns

The biggest concern I had was whether I could remain enrolled as a student at TU Dresden while abroad, but I found out that I could. My supervisor was also highly supportive of my plans to complete my thesis overseas and had no objections, as everything can be done remotely these days. I just needed to finish my experiments before the trip and save the results on a hard drive, USB, and in the cloud. Integrating Zotero and Libre Office on my Manjaro laptop was a breeze, and I could easily sync my OneDrive folder. I even had VPN access to my parents’ network where I could leave my computer via Wake on LAN and TeamViewer, so I was all set for now.

Health Related Concerns

To my embarrassment, I had not visited the dentist for quite some time, so I made an appointment as soon as the new year began. To my surprise, after five years of cheating out of dentist appointments, i did only have minor problems. o my surprise, after neglecting dentist visits for five years, I only had minor problems. Next on my to-do list was getting vaccinated for Asia. My doctor recommended getting vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis, rabies, and possibly influenza as well. The former two would be expensive, costing 100 and 75 euros per dose and requiring two to three injections each. The biggest problem though, was that it should be injected with some time in between, but time was a critical factor in my case. Eventually, we managed and i neither got sick because of all the shots, nor did i get ultra instincts. Fortunately, my German insurance would cover the costs, and I just needed to pay the bill beforehand and send them the receipt to reimburse the costs.

As for insurance, I was currently paying around 120 euros per month, which didn’t cover any incidents abroad. That’s why I needed to get additional overseas insurance. An agent told me that if I could prove I was abroad, they could drop my inland insurance charge. However, as long as I was enrolled, I was obligated to be insured through the inland insurance, which would only terminate at the end of each semester. Sounds complicated and i am still a bit in the dark, but essentially, as soon as i finish my thesis, i could ask for an early termination of my enrollment, which then frees me from the obligation of being inland insured. While i am abroad i could then be insured through a insurance for overseas travelers. I chose the Young travelers insurance, since it allowed me to be insured up to two years and had good ratings online.

As far as travelling medicine goes, i normally don’t pay too much attention to it. However, now getting older, with many knowledgeable people surrounding me and hearing about extreme food poisoning experiences, the danger now seems imminent. In my luggage i included, two kinds of anti-diarrhea medication, drugs against food poisoning, sunscreen, anti insect spray, electrolytes and food supplements. My doctor also recommended that I get vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis and rabies and while I’m at it could also get a flu shot. I was shocked to find out that the vaccinations were quite expensive (450€ in total, excluding the flu shot), but luckily, my health insurance would reimburse all costs. The rabies vaccine required three doses, and given that I only had three weeks until my departure, it was a very tight timeline to get everything done in time.

Travel Related Concerns

As a German citizen, traveling to Japan was relatively easy as I was able to enter the country without a visa for up to 90 days. However, traveling to Vietnam was a bit more complicated. Thankfully, my am of Vietnamese origin, allowing me to apply for visa exemption. With this at my disposal, I can stay in Vietnam for up to 180 days without a visa. To obtain this exemption, I had to visit the Vietnamese embassy in Berlin.
The embassy, as a representation of the country, was just how I imagined Vietnam would be like. It was a small, minimalist space with three counters for applicants to pick a numbered ticket. While there was a sign indicating that applicants should wait until their number was displayed on the screen, in reality, people were simply queuing up and the clerk in charge did not even check the numbers.

Navigating German bureaucracy can be a real hassle, and obtaining an international driver’s license was no exception. To get one, I had to make an appointment a month in advance. The process of scheduling an appointment can be a breeze thanks to the online application. The catch though is, that the authorities will send you a confirmation email, which requires an additional confirmation from your end to accept the appointment. Double-checking makes sense indeed, unfortunately, I overlooked the confirmation email and didn’t bother to double-check myself until just four days prior to my scheduled appointment. Fortunately, after a bit of pleading, they were able to squeeze me in, but I was warned that simply showing up without an appointment wouldn’t have helped. In the end, the process only took 15 minutes. Which sounds fast, but is crucial to do in Germany before any travel activities, since you can only translate your drivers license at the designated city, where your permanent residence is registered.

Current Life

I worked as a working student part-time in Germany. Although, home office was a given, it is not that simple, if you temporarily live abroad for an extended duration, which is why i had to quit my job first and take vacation days appropriately. There is another thing i was considering to quit – my room in the sharehouse. However, having no residence in Germany comes with many implications and is not a decision to be made lightly. After asking my current flat mates, whether that would be alright, I opted to find someone who could take over my room while I was away to lessen the financial burden of paying rent for two places.

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hungsblog | Nguyen Hung Manh | Dresden
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