HUM 159: Nature and World Culture

Dates | Overview | FactsAcademic | Accommodation | Leader | Cost | Apply

Program Dates

June 6–27, 2014

Program Overview

In Hum 159 (Cross Listed as ENVS 159 and AMS 159), students will take a “biocultural” approach to understanding the cultures and environments of Vietnam. This means focusing on the relationship between culture and the environment, examining the ways a particular culture—as reflected in cultural artifacts such as cultural beliefs and values, languages, practices and institutions—is adapted (or is not adapted) to a particular environment, and how cultural constructs impact the way we perceive and treat the natural world. This interdisciplinary inquiry will focus on a variety of environments and cultures within Vietnam, as well as examining the impact of globalization and industrialization.

Students will experience a variety of distinct environments (mountains, coast, deltas, rainforests, plains, and urban areas ) and cultures (Cham, K’Ho, Kinh, Khmer, Raglay, American, Chinese, French Colonial). We will begin in Ho Chi Minh City (in time to bring in the Western New Year) and will visit Da Lat, Nha Trang, Ninh Chu and Tien Giang, along with a number of national parks, sanctuaries and development projects. We finish where we began, Ho Chi Minh City. There will also be a number of excursions, as well as ample time to enjoy the culture, nightlife, food, and beaches of Vietnam.

Country Facts

Viet Nam is one of the most diverse places on earth. Its landscape includes vast deltas, high-elevation cloud forests, red sand-dune coastal forests, grassland savannahs and, of course, some of the largest and largest and fastest growing urban areas in the world. Viet Nam is has a globally significant diversity of species—126 new species were discovered in Viet Nam and the Greater Mekong Delta in 2012 alone. And, because biodiversity leads to cultural diversity, Viet Nam has over 54 distinct ethnic groups. Over the past 10 years, after decades of war and economic turmoil, Viet Nam has entered a period of intense economic growth and development, all of which puts increasing pressure on the environment (Viet Nam is also home to a significant proportion of the world endangered species, including 27 which are endemic to Viet Nam or to adjacent countries) with and these local communities.

What all these facts and figures mean is that Vietnam is an ideal location to experience the intersection of nature and culture and explore first hand issues pertaining to globalization and its environmental and cultural impact..

Academic Program

Humanities 159 (Cross Listed as ENVS 159 and AMS 159)
Nature and World Cultures, 3 Units, GE Area V

Accommodations, Safety, and Visas

Accommodations throughout the stay will be double occupancy in hotels—3 and 4 star—and is included in the cost of the trip.

In order to enter Vietnam, you will need a valid passport with at least six months validity remaining and a Vietnamese visa, a visa exemption document, or a written approval letter for a visa upon arrival. You may obtain a visa or a visa exemption document from a Vietnamese embassy or consulate prior to traveling to Vietnam. (This can take a few weeks, so it should be done sooner, rather than later).

Consulate General of Vietnam in San Francisco, California 1700
California Street, Suite 430
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: 415-922-1577
Fax: 415-922-1848
(Visa Information:

Vietnam Embassy
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 861-0737
Fax: (202) 861-0917

There is currently no US travel warning for Viet Nam. For more information about safety abroad, visit the US Department of State Travel Information for Vietnam page.

Program Leader

Lisa L. Stenmark

Estimated Costs

SJSU Special Session Tuition (3 units @ $250 each)


Administration Fee 200

Program fees*


Estimated Total


*Estimate only.


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