Surprisingly today has been my favorite day in Vietnam! Our group might not have spent a relaxing day at a five-star beach resort but during this eventful day I was exposed to the most enlightening aspects of the trip. This morning we attended our last lecture at UEF on the philosophy of Buddhism. At first, I did not understand the point of the lecture as it had little to do with the development of Vietnam, yet later in the day the presenter at Vina Capital spoke about how hard the business world can be at first. The ideals of Buddhism can help to mellow the stress and unhappiness that are inevitable in life. Buddhism is the most popular religion in Vietnam, throughout today I saw the connection between the Buddhist philosophy of overcoming sorrow and the Vietnamese work ethic. The country is known for its diligent work ethic, and as social mobility is attainable in Vietnam; hard work truly does pay off. After the lecture, we visited a Buddhist pagoda which was beautiful. I found it very interesting to learn about this unfamiliar religion as it plays a large role in Vietnamese society.
For lunch, we could finally choose our own meal and I seized the opportunity to get my favorite type of sushi (a nice change from traditional Vietnamese food) and a smoothie. It is hard to choose a favorite meal from the trip but this is definitely high on my list. In the afternoon, our group visited Vina Capital Foundation and Corporation. This was truly the highlight of my day as Vina Capital has by far been my favorite site visit. Vina Capital is two companies that are positioned together and are unlike anything I have ever seen before. The primary business is the premier investment firm in Vietnam, the second company is a NGO foundation that works with the Ministry of Health to provide services and opportunities for impoverished children in Vietnam. This company is truly unique in that the corporation covers all overhead cost of the foundation so every donation goes towards philanthropic activities. The foundation mainly focuses on paying for open-heart surgeries and women’s empowerment programs. This combination of charities may seem unconnected but in reality, they are coexistent. As in most countries typically the poorest people in society are also ethnic minorities, this is also true of Vietnam. By empowering women through scholarships and healing sick children, Vina Capital is working to build the middle class which develops the economy and allows for a better access to healthcare. Through the foundation, Vina Capital is directly contributing to the development in Vietnam. The investment side of the business is explicitly developing Vietnam in an economic way through trading on the stock market.
The most interesting part of the presentation was the business professionals that spoke to us. Three American executives from the firm were able to provide our group with extremely helpful insight into daily life in Vietnam and the business world in general. The most impressive speaker was the Director of Strategy and Operations, Linh, as she also started her own business and is a judge/shark on Shark Tank Vietnam. I found that Linh to be an incredibly empowering figure and her advice and comments were very beneficial to a woman entering the business world. For the first time on our trip I heard business professionals speak very highly of the Vietnamese government. I found this important because Vina Capital Foundation works closely with the government. The presenters told our group that when they first moved to Vietnam they held the US in such high regards but after interacting with such a lenient communist government they realized that the US is great but still has flaws. From this site visit I learned a great deal about the Vietnamese government and how much they have done and continue to do to help the people and the economy develop. The Vina Capital visit was by far the most interesting and linked very closely with development in Vietnam.
Later this afternoon our group shopped at the Ben Thanh Market which was extremely overwhelming because bargaining is necessary to get a good deal. Although I was very intimidated, I overcame my fear so family if you are ready this there are some pretty cool souvenirs coming your way!