As I write this final blog post back at home instead of in the blazing Vietnamese heat, I have time to reflect on how amazing this trip was. Two weeks have never gone by so fast, it feels like just yesterday all the students in our group were getting to know each other in a lounge in Tower A and as we ordered a ridiculous amount of Insomnia cookies. Through this trip I have learned so much about myself and the development of Vietnam, I was able to try many new things, and made new and incredible friendships with people that I look forward to spending the rest of my time at Pitt with. Plus3 was truly a life-changing experience.
In the modern business world, soft skills are just as valuable as technical skills. Before our final presentations in Vietnam Bryan Shultz lectured on how companies can train their employees to use software, implement accounting procedures, etc. but transferrable skills such as communication and decision-making cannot be taught, they must be learned through experience. On Plus3 I learned a lot about development and globalization, but the experiences and interactions I had while in Vietnam taught me more than site visits and lectures could.
On a daily basis, I had to be adaptable to my group members and our very busy schedule. I am typically a very organized person, but on this trip I learned to roll with the punches. While at the Cat Lai Terminal no one expected for our group to be outside all day, but the presentation was actually outside on the dock. The Vietnamese sunshine was searing down on me and eventually I had to apply sunscreen multiple times during the business presentation. I also will never forget my twenty-minute layover in Tokyo on the way home. The five other Pitt students and I that flew back to DC reenacted the scene in “Home Alone” as we sprinted through the airport, but somehow all five us and our luggage made it on the flight. In life and especially in the business world it is important to be able to adapt to different situations. Plus3 taught me adaptability in a hands-on way that I find very valuable.
Since there was a language barrier in Vietnam I became more insightful in nonverbal language. At many restaurants the servers did not speak any English so the only way to order was by pointing at items on the menu. At first this made me slightly uncomfortable because in American culture it is perceived as rude to point at objects and people. As the two weeks progressed this way of ordering food became second nature to me and I even learned how to effectively communicate that my order had come out wrong. During the trip we used the Vietnamese version of Uber, called Grab, instead of street taxis because we found it to be a more convenient and cheaper option. The problem that this service imposed was that all the drivers did not speak any English. One night my friends and I were taking a Grab back to the hotel and the driver was lost but was having difficulty communicating the problem to us. As a group, we had to use Google Maps to direct him back to the hotel without actually speaking to him. The barrier that the foreign language imposed was a stumbling block, but it helped me to develop patience with others and value nonverbal communication in a way I never have before.
Another skill that I developed on this trip that I never thought I would learn was negation. In the US we do not negation while shopping but in the Vietnamese marketplace it is essential to any sale. The day that we ventured to the Bến Thành Market I was able to negotiate with sellers for many souvenirs and even a knock-off designer purse. It was intimidating to speak with the sellers who spoke a small amount of English solely for the purpose of selling their goods to tourists. At the end of my shopping spree, I felt that I had gotten a good deal on my purchases. Although negations are not typically used in everyday situations in the US, it is prevalent in the business world. Whether negotiating a contract or a salary I believe it is helpful to know how to effectively reach an agreement with others.
Although this program seemed to have flown by, I will always cherish the memories. Vietnam and the people that I met on this trip will forever be in my heart. I would like to thank Hillary and Bryan for making this trip both educational and fun. Also thank you to everyone who read my blog these past two weeks. Hail to Vietnam!