Traveling to Vietnam was an incredible experience for me. I made so many new friends, I pushed myself to try new things, and I learned about a beautiful country and its history and culture. I’m tremendously grateful for this experience and everyone I got to experience it with.
Throughout my time abroad, I gained a valuable skillset that I’ll carry with me in the future. Among the new transferable skills I have are three main ones: improved communication skills, active listening, and increased flexibility and adaptability.
Starting the second I got off the plane, I was faced with communicating through somewhat of a language barrier with people from a significantly different culture than my own. The language alone was one thing, but trying to understand the subtle differences in our cultures and the way we respond to situations was extremely difficult and only made communication harder. I quickly learned that the only way I was going to be able to properly talk to the Vietnamese students was if I readjusted the way I communicate with people. I have a tendency to ramble on about any particular subject, so I had to remind myself to think what I was saying through so as to avoid any of my messages getting lost in translation. This allowed me to articulate myself far more clearly than I had before which will allow me to communicate more effectively in the workplace and with my peers.
In addition to re-evaluating the way I communicate with others, I made sure to listen more intently and actively when I was in a conversation. This allowed me to absorb more information and actually think about how to respond to others. I was always ready to ask questions which is something I usually hesitate to do. In general, I find myself too timid to ask what I would consider to be “too many questions,” but when faced with a language barrier, I realized that I would need to ask questions to have any idea of what was going on around me.
As far as being flexible and adaptable goes, I learned how to adapt to new situations every single day and to be flexible with all of the unforeseen changes in our schedule and plans. One specific time that I learned how to be flexible in through this experience was at meals. This may seem like an inconsequential part of a much larger travel experience, but as a pescatarian, I found that in some cases, my food options were quite limited and it was even difficult to communicate the idea that I had such a dietary restriction to the staff at the restaurants we attended. The most trouble I had with this was at night when we weren’t with the whole group and I had to fend for myself a bit more. For example, towards the beginning of the trip, one night we went to a small casual restaurant with a large group. I tried to order a seafood meal, but as many of even what looked like seafood dishes seemed to, the meal included chicken. This happened a few more times throughout the couple weeks we spent in Vietnam, and instead of making a big deal about it, I learned to expect to have some difficulty in ordering my meals and reached out to the Vietnamese students for help. I found that to make sure I was getting the right meals, I would have to settle for foods I wouldn’t necessarily eat (for example, whitefish instead of shellfish) but I was happy to give them a try to make it less of a hassle.
Overall, I learned a lot about myself, I saw some pretty incredible things, and I had an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.