The Best Cities for Vietnamese Students Studying Abroad

advice for students
culture shock
Southeast Asia
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By Kate H Knapp
Published on May 8, 2024

Los Angeles, San Antonio, DC, and more US cities make Vietnamese students studying abroad feel right at home.


A grid of four cityscapes shows four US cities that are great for Vietnamese international students studying in the US: Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, DC, and San Antonio.

Vietnamese students are currently the fifth-largest group of foreign students studying in the US, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Though these students may choose to attend colleges across the country, there are several US cities guaranteed to make Vietnamese students feel right at home.

Los Angeles, San Antonio, Spokane, Washington, DC, and Boston feature top-notch universities, but these cities are also home to strong Vietnamese-American communities that are represented in their restaurants, shops, places of worship, and cultural events. International students can stave off homesickness while studying abroad by finding those places and people who feel like home – and the following cities offer just that.

Los Angeles

Boasting hundreds of diverse neighborhoods, Los Angeles (LA) is considered a melting pot of food, art, fashion, religion, entertainment, and more from cultures around the world. Thanks to this wide variety of businesses, Vietnamese students have no trouble curing homesick blues at regional spots across the city. 

Located between Huntington Beach and Irvine in Westminster in Orange County, the neighborhoods known as Little Saigon have the largest Vietnamese-American population outside of Vietnam, providing international students with the familiar flavors, scents, and sounds of home. The area has been a culturally significant Vietnamese neighborhood since 1975, and features the Museum of the Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam War Memorial.

With a wide variety of restaurants serving authentic fare, it isn’t difficult to find the flavors of home. Some local favorites include Phở 79, Van’s Bakery, and Banh Mi Che Cali. Serving as a cultural hub, the Asian Garden Mall boasts more than 200 stores owned by Vietnamese locals, who sell specialty goods and foods each day under the mall’s iconic green roof. There are multiple celebratory events throughout the year, including Tet / Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and the annual Flower Festival. During summer weekends, the Night Market is a festive spot to grab traditional street fare. 

The Tet / Lunar New Year parade is one of the most popular events in Little Saigon and is televised all over the world.

The Chùa Điều Ngự Buddhist Temple welcomes Buddhists to its traditional temple building, complete with a nine-foot-tall Buddha statue. 

Want to study in LA? These Shorelight universities may be especially good choices for Vietnamese students: AMDA College of the Performing Arts, American Collegiate LA at UCLA Extension, Pepperdine University, and Whittier College.

San Antonio

As a self-proclaimed “Melting Pot Metropolis,” San Antonio strives to be a welcoming place for all cultures. The second-largest city in Texas hosts an array of global festivals throughout the year, offers a dynamic culinary scene, and is home to a range of diverse backgrounds. It is easy to see why San Antonio stands by the saying, “There are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet.” 

With an array of Vietnamese restaurants peppered across the city — including popular spots like the Viet Nam Restaurant, Berni Vietnamese, and Pho Thien An — international students can find familiar flavors not far from campus. To shop for imported ingredients, such as snacks, spices, produce, and more, there are two stores worth a visit: Asian Market and Hung Phone Oriental Market. 

Those who wish to worship can find services at the Vietnamese Christian Church or the Lien Hoa Buddhist Temple. San Antonio celebrates many cultural events throughout the year, including Lunar New Year.

Vietnamese students, be sure to consider The University of Texas at San Antonio for your home away from home in the Southern US.


Spokane in eastern Washington state has been home to a thriving Vietnamese-American community since the early 1990s. The city has celebrated this Vietnamese culture and encouraged fostering friendships with local communities at its annual Vietnamese Heritage Day since 2016. The festival includes guest speakers, traditional live music, cultural dances, art exhibits, and more.

With a culinary scene that spans the globe, it isn’t hard for international students craving a taste of home to find it. Spokane has several Vietnamese restaurants worth a visit, including Vien Dong Vietnamese Restaurant, Pho Van, or Pho Thinh.

If students want their favorite snacks for studying, the Best Asian Market, a Vietnamese-owned Asian grocery store, is the place to go. Not only does the market sell imported ingredients and products, but also hosts Lunar New Year and Lantern (Moon) festivals each year.

The Spokane Buddhist Temple and the Buddhist Institute of Universal Compassion offer services and events that may provide a sense of community for Vietnamese students.

Gonzaga University is at the heart of Spokane, which makes it an ideal place for Vietnamese students to feel welcome while studying.

Weekend Getaway: Seattle 

Just a one-hour flight or four-and-a-half-hour drive from Spokane, Seattle offers everything from authentic restaurants to a Celebrate Little Saigon festival that are sure to remind Vietnamese students of home. The Vietnamese Cultural Center is a great place to find community, since it is dedicated “to preserv[ing] Vietnamese culture and art, and to share the rich Vietnamese history in the communities that we live in.” Seattle’s Vietnamese Church of Hope offers services for those who want to worship among peers. The city welcomes people from around the world, and international students who decide to study in Seattle at the Cornish College of the Arts are sure to find something familiar from their far-off home.

Washington, DC

With the fifth-largest population of Vietnamese in America, Washington, DC is an ideal spot for international students to feel at home. The city offers a wide variety of authentic Vietnamese restaurants and markets, as well as hosts cultural celebrations throughout the year, including the Viet Fest – Vietnam Heritage Festival, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and Tet Lunar New Year. For those who want to worship, Chua Viet Nam was the first Buddhist temple in DC and has been welcoming Buddhists since 1978.

Pho restaurants are plentiful across the metropolis, but there are other Vietnamese restaurants serving a variety of traditional dishes, including Rice Paper and Thanh Son Tofu.

Those looking for familiar flavors won’t have to go far, but they may want to go a little outside of DC to find community. Eden Center in Falls River, Virginia, is considered “Washington, DC’s premier destination for Vietnamese cuisine and specialties.” The shopping center features more than 125 Vietnamese-run businesses including cafes, bakeries, salons, coffee shops, grocers, jewelers, fashion, and financial services, among other offerings. The Good Fortune Grocery Store is the perfect spot to find authentic ingredients. Eden Center hosts many cultural festivals throughout the year, including Tet Celebrations at the Eden Center and the Moon Festival.

Vietnamese students who want to make DC their home away from home should consider studying at Shorelight universities including American University or American Collegiate DC.


Though there are pockets of Vietnamese businesses throughout Boston, there is nothing like the Boston Little Saigon cultural district, which invites people to “explore our district, experience Vietnam.”

Home to 75% of the city’s Vietnamese-American population, the district is the place to go to find Vietnamese community, cuisine, and culture. Located in the Fields Corner of Dorchester, the district boasts the nation’s first Vietnamese American Community Center, which provides cultural activities, programs, and events throughout the year.

Among the many Vietnamese restaurants serving pho, banh mi (try Ba Le), clay pot, and other traditional dishes in the area, Coco Leaf stands out for its Vietnamese desserts, including che, a Vietnamese parfait. Truong Thinh Supermarket has a variety of imported ingredients, snacks, spices, and specialty items from Vietnam.

Little Saigon celebrates several major cultural events throughout the year, including the Night Market. This outdoor street festival is inspired by Vietnam night markets back home, and features traditional street food, live entertainment, a beer garden, games, and much more. The Tet Celebration is also a popular event hosted by Little Saigon and the Boston Public Library.

The Chua Luc Hoa Buddhist Center also hosts community events throughout the year and provides a welcoming space for international students to worship.

Want to study close to Boston’s Little Saigon? Consider Shorelight universities Dean College, MGH Institute of Health Professions, UMass Boston, or Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Find Your Home Wherever You Study

With so many Vietnamese students coming to the US to study, students can find community without leaving campus. These six cities, however, are the perfect place to live because the comforts of home will never feel too far away.

Shorelight can help you find your US university home away from home >