Rightly or wrongly, it was enough for me and I applied for, and was offered, the job. I was attracted by the prospect of being in at the start of such an exciting project. So, four months in, how has the reality measured up to the CGI?
Well, as the photos here show (and you can see more here), it isn't finished by any means, but what is complete bears an uncanny resemblance to the graphics and there's no reason to think that the rest of the development will be any different. We have four classroom blocks completed, though we are only using parts of them at present. The library and administration offices are finished, as is a large function room and another large room which is currently being used as the canteen. A computer lab has just opened. The areas between the buildings are nicely landscaped and the ongoing construction work has little impact on our day-to-day working lives. It is gratifying to see the pace of change. A building which was only just out of the ground when I arrived here in September is now almost complete; the scaffolding came down a few days ago and it is about ready to be painted. When finished, it will be a state-of-the-art lecture theatre.
So much for the buildings, what of the students? Well, we had our first intake of about 750 students at the beginning of October. The majority of them will be studying for a degree in Business Administration which will be taught wholly in English and so, in this first academic year, they are having English lessons every day, with the aim of reaching an IELTS score of 5.5 to enable them to begin their course. It's proving to be a tall order in some cases!
The opening ceremony of EIU, on 3rd October, was a lavish affair, attended by all of the freshers, their families, and the teaching and administrative staff of the university, as well as representatives of our foreign investors, local politicians and business people and even the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam! We were entertained by the Vietnamese equivalents of Take That, Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber, much to the delight of the students who screamed the place down, even though it was only 10am! The whole thing was captured on film by every TV station in the country! The very lengthy ceremony was followed by a lavish lunch at the newly-opened convention centre in the new city and a good time was had by all! You can see more pictures of the event here.
Since then, it has been a steep learning curve for students and teachers alike as we each adapt to our new environment and try to meet the challenges we've been set. We've had time for fun as well, though, with our pre-Christmas show, SBA's Got Talent and our Project Presentation Day on 13th January. For a new university, the atmosphere is very good - it feels like a nice place to work and the students tell me it's a good place to study.
The authorities here are aiming to make EIU the top university in Vietnam. Ultimately, they want to attract high calibre students from neighbouring countries. We will have trials and tribulations along the way, but I, for one, am happy to be along for the ride!