‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life

(VOVWORLD) - For many people, summertime means going to the beach, playing a round of beach volleyball with friends, or sun-bathing with a glass of your favorite cocktail. For Vietnamese undergrads, they also had a seven-day getaway together, leaving all work behind for a special trip to ‘Malibu’. A ‘Malibu’ where there’s a lot of sand but no trace of water to swim in. A ‘Malibu’ that people describe as the exact opposite of “relaxing time” but one of the most memorable experience of a student life. Let’s discover how university students "enjoyed their trip". 
‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 1Mai Linh welcomes students with stretch of warm and comfortable weather.

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

The ‘Malibu’ we’re talking about is Mai Lĩnh Military Training Center on the premises of Hanoi University of Physical Education and Sports in the Hanoi suburbs. But why ‘Malibu’? Take the first two letters of “Mai” and “Lĩnh” and put them together and you have “Mali,” which makes one think of Malibu, the Los Angeles County beach.

The center mostly trains university undergrads. The National Defense course includes two theoretical modules and one applied module, and its duration varies. In our case, the theoretical lessons were delivered online, so students spent only one week at the center for practical training. At the end of the course, those who passed received certificates from the Ministry of Education and Training. This course was attended by 930 students from Hanoi University and BTEC FPT International College.

Upon arrival, anyone with coronavirus was placed under a quarantine order and could re-enroll in the course later. On campus, however, students were not required to wear masks or follow other Covid-19 protocols. Head of the Student Administration Department, Mr. Bui Van Trang explained,

“As the Covid-19 subsides, the center has reportedly admitted nearly 10,000 undergraduates, with only 8 infected cases in March, 4 cases in April, none in May. The center campus remains clear of Covid till now (June 25); therefore, wearing facial masks is not compulsory.”

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 2Admiring the surroundings, students head towards their rooms.

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

After a 30-minute coach ride, we arrived at the center and were in awe of our new environment. All students were divided into 14 units and 42 sub-units, with 5 to 7 persons per room. Each of us was provided with two sets of uniforms, one blanket, one mosquito-net, one textbook, and other necessities. The Warehouse & Finance Department representative further elaborated,

“Students have to keep their dorm rooms clean and neatly-arranged. Before leaving the rooms, make sure water faucets and lights turned off properly. Also, in terms of electricity usage, only phone or laptop charger is allowed, whereas appliances such as irons, hair dryers, or kettles are prohibited. Should we know of anyone disobeying rules, you’re not gonna like it. Rule-breakers will be fined heavily and won’t have their stuff back.”

Students are encouraged to practice self- and group-discipline in the spirit of “All for one, and one for all.” The use of improper language and alcoholic beverages; fist fights and other kinds of misbehavior are strictly prohibited. In any case of rule violation, students’ performances are re-assessed: they can either lose points, get suspended or worse; become disqualified.

Hanoi University freshman Nguyen Ha Phuong was well aware of the strict environment:

“I have to get up early in the morning, and I’m afraid of losing something they’ve given me, so I would need to pay the money. They give us a lot of things and it’s easy to lose those tiny things. Because you’ll be out all day, so maybe someone can take your things but you do not know. And maybe I might fail this subject. Because there are many hard lessons, like those with a gun. I’m not sure I could pass this one.”

The next morning, at 5:30 A.M. sharp, the Commander-in-chief ordered all units over a megaphone to wake up and gather in three minutes.

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 3An early-morning "run"

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

Three sub-units in each unit took charge of three different tasks: room cleanup, public area cleanup, and running workout at the track. Five students from each unit later collected breakfast from the canteen and distributed it to the whole team. Other morning habits like personal hygiene and bed arrangement also needed to be done before 6:30 A.M., with blanket and mosquito-net folding being the most daunting task for the majority of students. Company Commanders would later check each room and take proper measures to handle those that failed to obey the rules. Deputy Head of the Student Administration Department, Mr. Ly Hoai Nam clarified,

“To any student who fails to abide by the rules, you can file a leave of absence letter and self-practice at home till when you’re confident enough to attend the course. If not, we’ll inform that student’s institution of the case. Consequences of disobedience include pushing the garbage wheelbarrows over a km to the landfill at noon; gathering at the schoolyard to self-reflect. Worse, we’ll announce a disciplinary decision then send the student back home.”

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 4Some students fold the blanket the night before, while some don’t even unfold in the first place.

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

After everything was set, all units were aligned in line formation, carrying learning equipment as instructed and heading towards their respective classrooms. As for classes at the parade grounds, each unit’s representatives would carry deactivated weapons and fresh water to make sure students stay well-hydrated. On their way to the sites, students were supervised by members of the Company Commander Board.

“I’m in charge of supervising other students when they gather for a roll-call or walk to their classrooms. In addition, my fellow Company Commander members and I, we need to be present at the briefing room to assist other students with their problems. The course has taught me how important it is to be punctual. If not on time, the whole unit will be punished.”

That’s what Hanoi University sophomore Han Quang Huy, a Company Commander member, said about the task where he had to take care of more than 700 students at a time.

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 5Students have lessons with deactivated AK rifles.

Photo: Tan Bao/VOV

The main subject in the practical module was “AK Submachine Gun Shooting Techniques.” We learned to handle the rifle and aim for the centre of the target. What’s more, the blinding heat made the subject even harder than it already was. Yet, what students gained from the lesson seemed to overshadow all difficulties. Hanoi University freshman Nguyen Giang Nam shared with us,

“To start with, we’ve learned how to hold a rifle and shoot properly. With that, we now understand the severe hardship of the people who have been fighting for the national sacred sovereignty, independence, and freedom.”

At 10:30 A.M. sharp, we formed lines and walked towards the assigned canteen for meals. Students must wear the uniform pants, and it should be noted that pyjamas, shorts, or sleeveless shirts are not allowed here.

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 6A simple, nutritious daily meal at the center

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

On a daily basis, the Company Commander and two staff members are responsible for checking the food quality and hygiene issues. The meals were made with a variety of typical Vietnamese dishes— boiled pork, tofu, fried eggs, seasoned fish, and vegetables. After lunch, students head back to the dormitory for a nap, but not all of them. Those who had violated the rules earlier certainly were doing extra ‘pleasant duties’.

Life at ‘Malibu’ did not just revolve around training and punishment though. Right after our afternoon classes finished, we hustled to change into comfy clothes to get ready for the ‘Malibu carnival.’

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 7The games are so fun … to watch!

Photo: Tan Bao/VOV

There is a game of tug of war where ten representatives of each unit compete to find the strongest, most resilient unit. Screaming and clenching their fists around the rope, both sides tried their best to drag the other across the center line. On the far side of the campus were several light refreshment stores where groups of friends chowed down together. Meanwhile, on the nearby bench, Hanoi University sophomores Pham Thuy Anh and Duong Hai Nam were in a world of their own, practicing guitar.

“I’ve been so excited since last night when packing my luggage for my trip to Malibu. I already planned what to bring along and what to do here.”

“I’m also really excited to see what it feels to live here, excited for the brand-new experience.”

We had a great talk and just like that, our special afternoon went by, but the ‘carnival’ was yet to end. Nightlife here at ‘Malibu’ is truly something that should not be missed. Normally, reading books and writing love letters during wartime might be the sappiest yet most heartwarming thing, and here it was similar.

“Malibu Love Station” by HanuTimes.net (an information platform for Hanoi University students) received students’ anonymous confession letters during their stay at ‘Malibu’. They even read some of them aloud with some in-between musical breaks and students on campus were super intrigued. Another common nightlife activity was to embark on a snack tour with fellow teammates or roommates while enjoying a music concert performed by the students themselves.

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 8Students have a blast together after a long day.

Photo: Tan Bao/VOV

At 8:30 P.M., everyone gathered once again for evening roll-call where the Commander-in-chief summarized the tasks that had been completed throughout the day, then assigned the next day’s missions to each unit. Mr. Bui Van Trang ended the roll-call with best wishes for the students,

“We’ve managed to do a lot for today, little things like waking up, sweeping and cleaning the floor, folding the blankets, hanging up the towels. But keep in mind that how we do those little things is how we do everything, it shapes our lifestyle, our personality and most importantly, it keeps you active and ready for everything. During peacetime, that activeness might help you a lot in your career, while in wartime, it helps you survive and fight against enemies. One minute late can cost you your whole life. So, try your best to adapt to this fast-paced environment.”

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 9Time to know who would take care of the garbage wheelbarrows the next day!

Photo: Tan Bao/VOV

The day at the center ended at 10 P.M. when all lights must be off. While everyone was falling asleep, a guard force was out in the dark watching to ensure safety for the students. The positions were previously assigned to a particular unit. The guarding timeframe is from 9 P.M. to 6 A.M. the following day for the male unit and from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. for the female unit.

Each shift lasts about two hours and students on duty are required to wear uniforms and special armbands. The guards only leave their position once the duty is handed over in front of the Commander-in-chief or Authorized officers. The whole campus fell into utter silence until the next morning.

After six days of training, on our last night at ‘Malibu’, the faculty held a three-hour concert - a farewell to the students. From singing, hip-hop dancing to rapping, the students relished their last night to the fullest.

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 10Students with their ‘lightsticks’ and ‘fanchant’ during the concert

Photo: Tan Bao/VOV

As the concert neared the end, Mr. Bui Van Trang shared his last words for this special ‘roll-call,’

“Well, you guys, students of the 282nd Training Class from Hanu (Hanoi University) and FPT, are about to complete the course, a really special course, a course where you have to train under the extremely hot and sunny weather. However, it’s also the course where your strength, resilience, and bravery are challenged and trained.”

We woke up earlier the following day, at around 5 A.M., to clean up and pack our stuff. After completing the morning tasks as usual, we scanned the rooms one more time to make sure the faucets and lights were off before handing them over to the Commander-in-chief. If any items returned were damaged or lost, the students would have to compensate according to the center’s policy.

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 11Students tidy up the rooms and hand them over.

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

Waiting for the coach to arrive, some couldn’t hide their excitement to finally go back home after a week,

“I’m really excited because I can go home now. Just 1 hour here please.”

“One week, it’s the perfect time to experience enough hardship and also enjoy the moment and lessons without being exhausted or burnt out.”

“Living in here for me is quite difficult because the weather here is pretty hot and you have to go to the field to study and practice your lesson you have learned so at the end of the day, it’s quite exhausting.”

Whereas some actually wished to stay longer.

“To be honest, I would like to prolong our stay here for a few weeks. I think I’m gradually used to living here with all my friends, roommates and teammates. Everything just gets better. Basically, I came here alone, but then I come back with the whole team, and that’s the greatest thing I could imagine.”

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 12Students during their daily summons

Photo: Tan Bao/VOV

One week living like real soldiers. One week studying and practicing under the summer heat. One week getting to know how our forefathers fought for the country with all their might and what we shall do to protect it. For most students, this short-lived experience is unlikely to repeat itself during their years at university. Whether it’s a one-week or one-month stay, the knowledge and skills that students learn here are great help to them later in their life. Here’s a poem written by Mr. Bui Van Trang himself – a reminder for the youth that no matter where they are and what life may throw at them, be bold and never give up.

“Over Mai Linh tonight reigns darkness and dead silence,

From afar, the tree beholds the dorm, still no sound heard,

We are here to stay, but you no longer,

On your way back home you are,

Mixed feelings wash over your teary eyes,

And our eyes,

Go back to where you came from,

Live like a soldier, then everywhere the soldier will be.”

(Bui Van Trang, 2018)

‘MALIBU’ — Unforgettable memory of student life  - ảnh 13No drop-dead date, there are only drop-dead beautiful moments.

Photo: Phuong Thao/VOV

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