Destination: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

Julia and other JWU students taking a cart ride in Vietnam.

Every Johnson & Wales student majoring in Tourism & Hospitality Management has the opportunity to go on a life-changing, global experience — a Familiarization (FAM) tour — while studying at JWU. For my class, it was the beautiful countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

FAM tours are 8-12 days long in either the US or an international destination and are taken at the end of each term. The destinations are different every term and are kept secret until the first day of class. We were all excited when we found out where we would be going. It was a few months later that we would travel to our destination, but our nerves were already buzzing. 

As the months passed, the anticipation grew, and after what felt like a shorter time than we expected, it was time to leave! From Boston, we took a 16-hour flight to Hong Kong, followed by a 3-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City, one of the most bustling cities a lot of the class members had ever seen. In Vietnam, we would go on to do wonderful things, such as my personal favorite, a river cruise along the Mekong River where we explored the islands, ate tropical fruit, heard traditional music and even held a snake and some beehives.

JWU FAM trip group shot

After 3 lovely days in Vietnam, we moved on to beautiful (and hot) Cambodia for the bulk of our trip. On our first day there, we settled into the city of Phnom Penh by taking a cyclo tour (a bicycle taxi with the driver pedaling behind you) at sunset.

The second day, spent in Phnom Penh, was much more serious, as we went to see the Khmer Rouge killing fields and prison. Though this day was definitely a somber one, it was very educational for the group and recognized as an important subject to know for this country.

"We knew the experiences we had would stick with us forever"

On day 4 we moved to Siem Reap in the north side of Cambodia. Exploring this city was a wonderful experience, as it was full of delicious restaurants and intriguing experiences. We went 4-wheeling through the Cambodian countryside and visited a circus.

One of the most memorable things was hiking through the Angkor Temples, an experience that was equally picturesque and educational. We recognized how much history and culture already existed in the world centuries before our time, and how little we truly knew about it. This journey started at sunrise, and witnessing the brilliant radiance over the Angkor Temples was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that brought us all closer together.

Collage: JWU students in Vietnam

Lastly, on day 9, we traveled across the Thai border into Bangkok. Though we only had a short time here, we made the best of it by having dinner in the tallest building in the city, the Baiyoke Sky Tower, which is 84 stories high. We had dinner on the 78th floor. From this view it seemed as though the city never ended — it just kept stretching over the horizon.

Day 10 was our journey’s end, and though we were sad to leave, we knew all the experiences we had would stick with us forever.

Sunset in Cambodia.