LookAtVietnam – It’s 5 p.m. in front of My Dinh Stadium, 10 kilometers from the center of Hanoi, and hundreds of university students are gathering for a two-kilometer run followed by two 1 1- kilometer spins on their bicycles.
The sun bores down on the hot streets of mid-June but it’s nothing to the students, who are spending all their energy practicing for a trans-country expedition at the end of the month organized by the National Academy of Public Administration.
They’ve been running and cycling every day for a month now. At the weekends they split into groups and ride to adjacent provinces within a 60- kilometer radius for exercise and to engage in voluntary work.
“Seeing how enthusiastically and excitedly they have been practicing, we find it hard to decide who is eligible and who is not for the trip,” says Le Van Nam from the academy, who initiated the event last year.
Some 500 students from 36 universities and colleges in Hanoi are vying for the 200 places in the Trans-Viet Green Trip 2009, which will set out on June 30 and end in early August after passing through 28 provinces and cities from the north to the south.
Since the trip involves lots of voluntary work, the candidates must demonstrate responsibility, teamwork and a commitment to improving the lives of the less fortunate.
Needless to say, physical fitness and a clean bill of health are mandatory, too.
The 300 who miss out can still contribute by doing voluntary work in disadvantaged areas or help high school graduates sitting the university entrance examinations in early July.
More than practice
Journalism student Le Viet Hung from the Hanoi University of Humanities and Social Sciences says he’s a new man thanks to the training.
“One month ago I was eating dinner at seven o’clock but now I don’t get to sit down at the table before nine. One month ago I could barely sit on the ground but now I can lie down anywhere,” Hung wrote in his diary.
“One month ago I was out of breath after running 500 meters but now I can run for two kilometers without getting exhausted.”
Another benefit is the good it will do Hung’s future career in journalism as he has written several articles and short news stories about the preparations and the people involved.
Vu Thi Hue from Hanoi Law University boasts that she can now ride her bicycle for tens of kilometers and do anything, for example collecting garbage instead of having others do it for her like before.
“I know this is a chance for me to test my will and patience, so I won’t allow myself to quit in the middle,” Hue declares with a passion.
“And if I’m not chosen for the trans-Viet trip, I’ll join the voluntary teams helping university entrance examinees anyway.”
Diminutive Dang Phuong Thao, an English freshman from Hanoi University, has established a reputation for her hard training and is confident of being among the chosen 200.
Thao says she has already been through the worst weather and the harshest conditions preparing for the event, and is now used to the grind. She has no fear of falling behind if she wins a place on the team, she says.