Sample Destination: Rwanda
Imagine an African nation where you can feel safe and secure walking the streets of its modern green capital, where zero tolerance for corruption really means zero tolerance, a country which the World Bank applauds as one of the world’s top business reformers, with the most gender-equal parliament in the world, increasingly globally admired for its achievements in healthcare and education, with a national fiber-optic broadband backbone that many far more developed countries dream of, all just a stone’s throw away from world-class tourism activities like the tracking of endangered mountain gorillas…
Welcome to Rwanda, possibly the greatest development success story in the world today.
Sample Destination: Kenya
The powerhouse of the East African Community, Kenya is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. From the white sandy beaches and the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean to volcanic mountains in the Great Rift Valley. From the vast savannahs to the lacustrine highlands near Lake Victoria, the largest freshwater lake on the continent. Cultural traditions converge in Kenya, making it a dynamic and vibrant place to visit and experience.
The country has become the political and economic leader in East Africa. It features a vibrant manufacturing industry that has moved beyond producing the basic daily goods needed by Kenyans and, increasingly, exports to neighboring countries. Despite recent terrorist incidents, tourism remains an important industry that provides service jobs and much needed foreign capital. There are not many mineral riches to be found in Kenya, but its agricultural exports of coffee, tea and cut flowers more than compensate. Recent investments in energy, technology and communications have also proven to have big economic potential for Kenya’s growth.
Sample Destination: Malawi
Formerly known as Nyasaland, Malawi has frequently been overlooked as a mainstream destination. The country boasts a wonderful diversity of beautiful landscapes. It is generally green and lush, with plateaux, highlands, forests, mountains, plains, escarpments and dramatic river valleys. Its greatest jewel is undoubtedly Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa and home to more species of fish than any other lake in the world.
A rather poor landlocked country with a largely rural population, Malawi’s economy is heavily based in agriculture. Its government faces major challenges in building and expanding the economy, improving education, healthcare, and environmental protection, and becoming financially independent.
Possibly the country’s biggest asset is its friendly and warm people. Their hospitable nature has earned it the nickname “The Warm Heart of Africa”.
Welcome to Malawi – Africa at its purest!
Sample Destination: South Africa
South Africa is frequently referred to as the World in One Country. In recent decades, it has emerged from its troubled and turbulent past into a healthy democratic state and the economic powerhouse of the African continent. Boasting a first-world infrastructure, it is an easy place to visit with technology, roads, telecommunications, banking and commercial sectors all highly developed. Of the 11 official languages, English is the most widely spoken and, with a highly sophisticated tourism sector, students are pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get around.
At the same time, South Africa is a great place to witness a society going through dynamic changes. It is still both a developed and an underdeveloped country, and there is a palpable sense of change. The country forges a new identity, moving from its apartheid past and strongly embracing its unique multicultural character, which is now integral to its national identity. Its status as a Rainbow Nation is especially clear to those traversing urban centers such as Cape Town or Durban.
Home to more than 50 million people most of whom were disenfranchised during apartheid, South Africa held its first full free and fair elections in 1994 which saw Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress come to power. Today the country has a healthy, albeit emerging democracy still finding its feet, battling to provide services to the most marginalized communities, for whom life is still a daily struggle. Conversely, the economically active sector of the population enjoys a comfortable if not well off and flamboyant lifestyle. Unfortunately the contrast between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is vast.
One of the most distinguishing things about South Africa is its breathtaking amount of diversity, both in terms of its culture and in terms of its physical environment. Few other countries can claim to be the natural habitat of such a wide range of animals, from hippos to dolphins and from zebras to penguins. Fabulous national parks offering rich safari experiences, mountain ranges, deserts and white sandy beaches with palm-lined promenades all invite visitors to explore. And, culturally speaking, South Africa is a country full of ethnic diversity and home to cultures steeped in tribal traditions, European customs, Indian and Malay flamboyance, making music, song, dance and cuisine a delight to explore in all its many influential forms.
Sample Destination: Vietnam
Today’s Vietnam is undergoing some of the fastest socio-economic changes any country in the world has seen. The Asian Dragon, as it is frequently called, is a major development success story that has experienced remarkable rates of economic growth since the start of massive political and economic reforms called doi moi in 1986. It is now a middle-income country with a poverty rate of less than 10%, massive influx of foreign investment, and booming modern cities that swallow up many of the surrounding villages.
At the same time, the lure of modern living has a deep impact on the traditional networks of family and community that continue to play a pivotal role in Vietnamese society. More than half of the population of over 90 million is under the age of 26. Major developmental challenges have emerged, ranging from rapidly growing inequality to environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources, rapid urbanization and corruption. Especially in urban areas, the Vietnamese increasingly question the old Confucian principles upheld in what continues to be nominally a communist society. And women in particular struggle to redefine their place in a country that was traditionally driven by a strong patriarchal system that emphasized male leadership.
Our GEI Study Center in Vietnam is located in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, Vietnam’s largest city with almost 10 million inhabitants and the economic and cultural center of the country. Pulsating with energy, Ho Chi Minh City is a place of contrasts. Next to the timeless alleys with Buddhist temples and street vendors are modern designer malls and sleek skyscrapers. Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect embodiment of modern-day Vietnam – and the ideal place to start to explore Vietnamese culture.