This trip, hands down, is going to be the highlight of my year. I can honestly say this has been one of the most rewarding trips that I have ever been on. I think this has to be due to the fact that this was the first trip abroad on which my parents haven’t come. While I do enjoy travelling with my parents, they do provide somewhat of a security blanket. I feel like this lack of a security blanket really helped myself as a person to develop. See what I did there, bringing in a type of development (bonus points!)? Sorry about that tangent but I had to throw it in. But, I do feel that I developed a lot from this trip and this development cannot be expressed in a better way than the transferable skills that I refined. While I am only going to write about three skills, I can make a great case for all of the skills presented in the blog prompt. I feel that working on all of these skills was just a byproduct of the environment in which we were. Vietnam is completely different than any other place I have ever visited. Thus, some aspects of the trip were challenging. By overcoming these challenges, I feel that I worked on all of these skills in some way, but I digress. The three biggest skills that I feel I refined are, flexibility and adaptability, communication skills, and articulating complex thoughts and feelings.
In regard to flexibility and adaptability, I feel this skill goes without saying. In order to go on this trip, one has to be willing to be flexible and adapt to a different environment. The number of times that I had to be flexible and adapt on this trip is innumerable. However, I feel that the example that best illustrates this skill is my dinners with Blaise and Peter especially during the first week. My main goal for this trip was to fully immerse myself in the Vietnamese culture and cuisine. While I cannot even express how grateful I am to the Vietnamese students for taking the time to show us around, but when it came to dinner they tended to go with more Americanized versions of their food. Therefore, I decided to join Blaise and Peter as we picked traditional Vietnamese street food to try. Needless to say, it was the best decision I made on the trip. However, that is not to say that it was a piece of cake. Even getting to the restaurants required flexibility. I remember the first night I went out to eat with them, the restaurant we picked was down an alleyway. While it seemed safe enough, it was still very disconcerting to walk through especially on one of the first nights. However, I remained flexible and was the food was definitely worth it. I loved the Vietnamese cuisine and some of my favorite memories of this trip will be the nights I spent with my friends trying the food of Ho Chi Minh.
This leads in to the next transferable skill that I wish to talk about, communication skills and specifically non-verbal communication. As we decided to venture off without the Vietnamese students, we didn’t have a reliable means to communicate. While there is a surprising amount English in Ho Chi Minh, there was still a considerable language barrier. Ordering was easy enough, grunting and pointing usually got the point across, but the biggest problem we had was paying for our meals. Often, we wanted to leave tips as our service was excellent, but we had issues asking for our checks and leaving the tips. The example that comes to mind is when Blaise, Aubrey, Hannah, Peter and I went out to a Pho shop. We had to try and pantomime a check and a tip with our waiter for a good ten minutes before our he understood what we wanted. Things like this definitely helped our communication skills as we had to bridge the language gap.
Finally, the last transferable skill I wish to highlight is the expression of complex thoughts and idea especially through writing. I am not a great writer, that’s why I am an engineer. However, I had to work on expressing my thoughts and ideas throughout this trip. I experienced many complex and interesting experiences throughout the trip and synthesizing these ideas onto paper proved a challenge at times. The best example I had of this was after my time at the War Remnants museum. I remember that Peter and I walked through most of the exhibits and then we sat on a bench for an hour trying to even comprehend what we had just seen. Even now, a month after the trip, I cannot even begin to express how I felt on that day. Confused, sad, depressed, and pensive were all some of the emotions I experienced that day. I knew the war was awful but the pictures in that museum were something else. But trying to express this a day after going there was tough. I think the best way I could describe it, was that I couldn’t. I couldn’t put down in words my emotional state and what I thought about the atrocities that had been committed. I didn’t have the answer. However, it was this epiphany that allowed myself to express my feelings. I realized that the scenes in that museum were so awful that they couldn’t be expressed. The only way to experience how I felt is to go there and see it for ones for themselves. Only then, can one know how I felt. This coherence through incoherent thought was one of the things I worked on and I feel like it improved my ability to express complex thoughts and ideas better than before.
I would just like to end this last blog by thanking Brian and Hillary for their time spent with us overseas. They always were willing to listen and talk about the things we were experiencing and for that I am truly grateful. And as I don’t know which one of you will be reading this, please know that if you ever need a student to talk about the trip in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to. Also, Brian I have started to watch the stuff on the list, the movies are great! Thanks again for the list. Thank you again for the great trip and for making my first year in college so memorable! Sorry if this was long, I had a lot of stuff I had to say. And I hope that I might be able to study abroad again with one of you in the future!