Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam the place where my life changed.

Okay, so maybe the title is a little intense but I do think that today’s events might have altered my future career path. I’ll touch on that later.

Our day started back at the University of Economics and Finance (UEF). There we were given a lecture on the history of Vietnam. I have always loved history. It was always my favorite subject and I’m pretty sure that my 5th grade history teacher said I was their favorite student. Anyway, our lecturer was absolutely fantastic. He made the history come to life in an engaging and exciting way. He touched on so many interesting topics like the many customs of the racial minority groups of Vietnam and the diverse array of religions in the country. Sitting in that class reminded why I had decided to Vietnam in the first place. To learn new things in a completely world. Today’s lesson did just that. Our group was taken a quick trip through the entire history of Vietnam.

The entire lesson exposed one important truth about Vietnam as a whole. Vietnam has had issues with China, Cambodia, France and the U.S. but through all these struggles the country has stayed strong. It has persevered and endured. From their struggles, it has grown to be vastly developing country of economic growth and cultural beauty. It has not been resentful with these past enemies and has instead forgiven them. This has allowed Vietnam to thrive because it has received lots of support from countries like the U.S.

Speaking of international relations with other countries…Our group also visited the U.S. consulate of Ho Chi Minh City. There we had the opportunity to chat with three of the consulate’s diplomatic officers. One of them was also a Pitt alum who got an amazing fellowship that paid for her government training and grad school! The officials basically just described what they did on a daily basis and gave us information about the U.S. Department of State and Foreign Service.

Now let me give you some background on the career goals of Mark Novales. I came into Pitt as a Global Management major. Even when applying to other schools, I applied as an International Relations/Business major. I was applied as these majors with the intention of maybe working for a global non-profit or helping international development of third world countries. After my first year, I still had great interest in this field, but never got in contact with anyone or even any organization that aligned with this goal. Let’s just say I was very excited to finally have this kind of opportunity!

Anyway, the officers all explained their different duties. Alena Joseph, the Pitt alumnus, works as the Public Affairs officer which means that she is in charge of the public image of the U.S. consulate and the U.S. as a whole. She controls all of the consulate’s social media and heads up public events with the Vietnamese people. These events include social discussions, U.S. movie viewings and even college advising. These resources are given to the Vietnamese people at no cost. The officers explained to us that these interactions act as a powerful diplomatic tool because that person that benefitted will remember that those Americans helped them out. Then, they will tell others around them and then positivity towards the U.S. spreads. Another one of the officers acts as the political officer for the consulate. He keeps the political relationship with the Vietnamese government in order. He also helps to advocate for U.S. values like freedom of speech and human rights to the Vietnamese government. The final officer was the consulate’s economic officer. She monitors the economic changes and patterns of Vietnam and directly communicates with the Vietnamese government. She interacts with many economic aspects like environmental policies, international development and even disease control.

Their jobs were so interested and directly correlated with my dream career. I was sitting there completely in awe of their jobs. They explained the entire hiring process, the immense traveling perks, but other responsibilities they had. One of the main components of working at the consulate is approving international visas. The process includes giving many interviews to visa applicants to see if that person is truly visiting Times Square or not. The visa process is lengthy process which includes locals waiting in a long line at the consulate and the intimidating interview. Typically it takes two days to officially process the visas after the person has been approved, but waiting times for interview appointment vary.

Ultimately, they all act the international face and voice of U.S. to other countries. They advocate for our values like those of equality for all and freedom of speech. They also focused on the importance of talking. (Mind you, I love talking and I all I know is that I need a job that I am talking a lot.) A conversation between two countries can prevent wars from arising. Especially in a country like Vietnam which has a communist government, these conversations are extremely important to maintain peace. They explained that the economic structure of Vietnam causes friction in conversations, but that it isn’t a crippling fact when composing policies and issues.

Overall, their jobs at the consulate enticed me to maybe work in foreign service. They explained the testing and interview process. Yes, I understand that these job would mean lots and lots of traveling, intense language learning and crisis management, but think about the positives. I would have countless stories to tell, I would be fluent in more than one language and I would be able to see the world.

After today, all I can say is. Where can I sign up?

See you tomorrow!

P.S. Karaoke also is happening tonight! I’m excited. I’m hype. I’m ready. It’s karaoke in Vietnam. I’m expecting it to be pretty epic.



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