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October 22, 2011
From Da Lat University Classroom Graffiti

When I first saw the classrooms at the University of Dalat, I was struck by how similar they were to American college classrooms. Sure, there are bench-row desks instead of individual ones, and the building interiors are more concrete and wood than tile and plastic, but the similarities outweighed the differences. Some classrooms even have projectors and media hookups, showing that the 21st century has reached Vietnam.

There was, however, one major difference.

I posted on Facebook a few days ago my discovery of a piece of graffiti inside my desk that reminded me that no matter where you go, things stay very similar. This graffiti was an artist’s crude depiction of genitalia, and reminded me of the scrawling you’d see on bathroom stalls or the large male organ that a member of the Gateway Class of 2006 decided to spraypaint on the side of a brand new school wall. I remember reading about ancient obscene messages discovered by archeologists in the ruins of Pompeii (possibly not work safe), which simply strengthens my argument: if there is a blank surface, someone will write on it.

It seems the students at the University of Dalat have taken this idea to the maximum. The desks in the classrooms here are covered in graffiti. And we’re talking about some intense graffiti. There’s lengthy writing in both Vietnamese and English as well as some fairly impressive art. While graffiti all over desks is to be expected, there is graffiti EVERYWHERE in these rooms. I’m talking about all over the walls, on the windowsills, pretty much anywhere a student could reach there is graffiti.

I decided to take my camera and document some of this amazing graffiti (after the break):

A good portion of the graffiti is simply writing on the desks, with messages in Vietnamese:

From Da Lat University Classroom Graffiti

This I obviously can’t read. (I also didn’t get anything good when I put it through Google Translate). But there was a fair amount of graffiti in English that I could read. Some of it was nice:

While some of it was less nice:

There was also a fair amount of artwork on the desks:

But as I said, graffiti on the desk is all fairly standard. I mean, some of this stuff it a little more elaborate then you’d expect to see in a college classroom, but it’s still just on the desks. Again, what was on the walls and other places was what really blew my mind:

There is a LOT of graffiti on these walls, and some of it goes fairly high up, probably about halfway to the ceiling. And as you can see, some of the graffiti is fairly intense, with paragraphs written on the wall. It’s clear that the students who write this aren’t doing it in secret, because what teacher would not notice a student writing graffiti halfway up the wall? This graffiti often has some academic significance:

This stuff confused me to begin with. It’s not like a student was bored or zoning out when they wrote this on the walls: it’s clearly got some academic importance to it. When I asked some of my students about it, they told me that it might be for students to try and cheat, which also blew my mind. After all, how on Earth could a student get away with cheating if they were copying their answers OFF OF THE WALL? Wouldn’t that get noticed?

Of course, not everything on those walls was related to possible cheating:

But if a student could earn extra points on a test from that, I’d be very impressed.

(I’ve shared most of the pictures, but the full album is available here.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mark Holm permalink
    October 23, 2011 7:08 am

    Wow! That’s crazy.

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