In reflecting upon my experience in Vietnam, I have come to recognize my most valued takeaways from the experience. The first of these is a new insight into professionalism and what it means to take part in the global economy. Our visits to the companies provided a new experience for me as I was able to get a glimpse of what it is like for a company to interact with the market as well as the overall environment of a country. I was also able to see how people behave in these types of professional settings which was a good learning experience that will surely aid me in the future as I go into more professional settings and have more professional experiences.
My other takeaways from the trip have to do with the transferable skills that I was able to work on developing while there. One of these skills was flexibility and adaptability. When traveling with a large group or on a schedule where things can get cancelled, it is important to be flexible and prepared to alter plans quickly without getting upset or allowing it to set you back. This was exemplified when my group’s company visit got cancelled because of a miscommunication. This meant that the meeting would need to be rescheduled and the preparation done by my group would need to be revisited before the next meeting. Although this was overall inconvenient for everyone involved, in the end it was not that big of a deal. We were still able to listen to the presentation and get some of our questions answered. The reality is that things like this can happen at times throughout life because we are all imperfect human beings and miscommunications occur at times. The important things is to be able to handle these situations with grace and dignity such that the end result is as productive and positive as possible. Flexibility is an important trait to have and one that individuals value in other people.
My final takeaway from my trip to Vietnam was a development in my communication skills overall as well as my ability to perceive non-verbal messages and cues. These skills were put to the test and strengthened through my interactions with the Vietnamese people I came into contact with. When interacting with the Vietnamese students, my general communication skills were tested. Because their English was so advanced, our communication difficulties would be in more nuanced and specific areas, such as with cultural references or word pronunciation. In these situations, I realized that it was very important to be aware of my audience and deliver messages accordingly in order to anticipate possible misunderstandings or information gaps both out of a desire for politeness and accommodation of my friends and also as a means of streamlining and maintaining clear communication. Upon encountering Vietnamese people who had less developed English skills, I had to rely more heavily on my non-verbal communication skills. I mostly encountered this in store settings, interacting with vendors and cashiers. In these cases we were able to overcome the language barrier by pointing to menu items or writing down the cost so as to make things more clear. This was obviously something outside the norm for me and I found it to be an intimidating experience to engage with someone I knew I might not be able to easily verbally communicate with. It was a good opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone and be shown that it is possible to get a message across without the strict use of proper language.
Overall, my trip to Vietnam was a challenging but very valuable experience. I learned many things that I did not know before, not only about Vietnam or the world, but also myself, what I am capable of, and where I want to go in life. I am wholly grateful for the opportunity I was presented with and am very glad for the new friends I made in Vietnam.