Leaving Vietnam was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. When people say they fall in love with countries, I always sloughed them off, believing it to be only a temporary thing stemmed from the excitement in traveling. Man, was I wrong. I can tell you this, I fell in love with Vietnam. I fell in love with the culture, the land, and most importantly the people. I left and truly felt I left a piece of my heart there. That’s why I decided to tell these Vietnamese students, “See you later.” Goodbye was not possible because I know I’ll be back.
What I learned during this trip was unforgettable and will surely stay with me for the rest of my life. I grew so much in academics but also was transformed as a person. The skills I learned were impossible to obtain on any American college campus.
I was forced to understand the real meaning of adaptability. The Vietnamese spoke excellent English, but it was still hard to understand, comprehend, and adapt to. Then, from there, how do you actually learn something from them when you barely understand their language? I am proud to say though, I overcame that barrier and made some extremely close friendships in just a short two week time period. I had the opportunity to not only discuss their cultural differences but also their personal lives, and I’m still keeping daily contact. In fact, today, one of my Vietnamese friends sent me a video of fan dancing, a traditional Vietnamese dance I didn’t even know was a thing until I got back to America.
From these relationships and also our professional experiences, I also learned the importance of listening and analyzing. We heard A LOT of different perspectives of Vietnam from people from every part of the world. It was so crucial to listen and ask questions so I could paint my own picture of Vietnam through all of these different perspectives. It created a very deep understanding of the country that touring and vacationing would not provide. The perspective from a French man at Glass Egg, an American at VinaCapital, and a Vietnamese college student were completely different. Glass Egg painted Vietnam as the practical business move, VinaCapital presented it as a growing country with endless opportunities, and the Vietnamese student described it as her beloved home, with all its beauty and faults. It was up to me to create a sole picture of Vietnam based upon the personal insights of everyone we meant, and that was all done through listening.
I also learned the importance of being willing on this trip. It’s not a natural thing for me to put myself in uncomfortable situations: trying food that still looked alive, communicating with people that only understand hand motions, and going places that are completely different from anything I’ve ever known. Yep, I was stretched, but I was willing to be stretched, and because of it, the stretched parts became solid by the end of the trip, adding to who I was. I grew as a person and experienced things I never would have if I stayed in my comfort zone. I have a new perspective and a new passion for a country that was only the name of war before this. Vietnam, thank you. Thank you for changing me and providing me one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. For the time being, I’ll miss you, but I know I’ll be back.