Wow! I never though two weeks could go by so fast. I’m so thankful I was able to experience such an eye-opening, rewarding trip. As I reflect on my time in Vietnam, I realize that I’ve gained a new perspective, many new friends, and several transferable skills.
Since this was my first time traveling to a country without speaking the language, I improved my nonverbal communication skills and articulation. While in Vietnam, we went out to dinner without any of the Vietnamese students several times. Normally they would order for us or help us with the menu, but in these instances, we had to point and gesture to communicate with the restaurant’s staff. I also used nonverbal communication to sense when someone wasn’t understanding me. There were many times where I was having a conversation with the students and I could tell from their body language that they hadn’t understood something I said. Because of this, I also improved my articulation of complex thoughts. When the language barrier between myself and a Vietnamese person was evident, I had to come up with a way to rephrase what I said. It kept me on my toes because some of our conversations were a lot more in depth than I thought they could be, and the students understood almost everything we talked about. However, stopping mid-conversation to try to explain a complicated concept in simpler English was sometimes challenging. I learned a lot about communication, especially across different languages and cultures.
This trip taught me a lot about being adaptable and flexible. I thought I was adaptable before the trip, but this pushed my limits more than anything I’ve ever done. With our busy itinerary, I had to schedule time to work on my blog and our group project, as well as find time to do activities with the Vietnamese and other Pitt students. Throughout the two weeks, I found that being flexible allowed me to get the most out of the trip. When we got back from classes and site visits every day, I usually just wanted sleep. However, I knew I wouldn’t get anything from the trip if I spent half of it in the hotel. I made sure that I always had something to do and joined in on whatever activities the Vietnamese and other Pitt students had planned. I also got used to eating without knowing exactly what I was eating. Normally, I view myself as somewhat of a picky eater, but I forced myself to try everything even if I didn’t think I would like something. Lastly, I participated in a lot of activities that I didn’t think I would, like crawling through all three of the Cu Chi Tunnels. Having the flexibility needed to try new things was one of the most rewarding skills I gained.
Overall, I am extremely grateful for everything this trip has done for me. I’ve gotten to know a completely foreign culture, made new friends (from both Pitt and Vietnam), learned about business, development, and globalization in a way more hands-on way than I ever thought I would, and realized that I am ready to travel the world! Thank you to Bryan, Hillary, my parents, and everyone else at Pitt and UEF who made this experience possible; I truly feel that I am a better person, student, and global citizen because of it. Vietnam, I miss you, but I hope I’ll be back some day!