My past two weeks in Vietnam hold some of the most memorable experiences of my life. From meeting new friends to trying new foods, this trip has left me with a newfound outlook on myself as well as the world. Immersing myself in a completely different culture was definitely intimidating at first, however I gained valuable lessons from having an open mind.
While I had many notable experiences on this trip, the experiences were made by the people around me. I have made friends from Pitt who are some of the most genuine and amazing people to be around. Even though we were all strangers beforehand, living together in a foreign country for two weeks has allowed us all to bond in a unique way. Additionally, the friends I have made from UEF in the IEF club will always have a place in my heart. I did not think that I would form such close relationships with the people from UEF, but in reflection, two weeks was definitely not enough time with them. UEF, and many Vietnamese citizens I interacted with, were all very welcoming, and I continued to be in awe at how kind they were. Even though I was in a country across the world, I was surrounded by people who were kind and welcoming, and repeatedly told me how happy they were to welcome myself and the other Pitt students to their country. From meeting the students from UEF, I have learned how to have an open and welcoming mindset, and I hope to show others the same kindness they showed me. Additionally, the students from IEF taught me that no matter what part of the world you come from or what you look like, it is a person’s character that matters, and I have never met more kind-hearted people in my life.
From this trip, I have developed a new outlook on myself as well as the world. In terms of myself, I am proud of how I stepped out of my comfort zone to try new things, and I am very glad that I did. In the process, I learned not only that I love fish sauce (and would put it on most things if I had it here in the U.S), but that a python is much heavier that I thought it would be, and eating shrimp with the shell still on tastes exactly like you think it would. More than that, I learned that the world is filled with so many different cultures and peoples, and travelling is the only true way to experience a lifestyle a culture completely different from your own. In doing this, I have a newfound appreciation and open-mindedness for everyone of different backgrounds, and additionally want to keep travelling the world and experience everything I can. There are many things about a certain culture or country that you cannot understand until you are actually there experiencing it. One of these moments for me were the visits to the Cu
Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum. Gaining new knowledge on events from a different perspective was very interesting, and it made me realize that there are always multiple sides to one story. Experiencing another perspective to the events like the Vietnam War and the United States’ involvement in the war made me realize the importance of considering other perspectives, even if they do not align with your beliefs. As such, this new thought process translates to how I look unto the rest of the world, in that what I know is only from my perspective, and the only way to broaden my horizons is to experiences different cultures and learn as much as I can from them. Travelling to Vietnam has allowed me to think this way, and the experience is something I will never forget.
Not only did just my mindset change on this trip, but I also was able to refine a good number of transferrable skills, that I believe will benefit me in both academics and life. The first transferrable skill that I was able to develop was my time management skills. Each day, we would have classes in the morning, lunch, then either a company or cultural visit in the afternoon. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for a short while before meeting up with the UEF students for dinner and activates afterwards. As we were required to blog daily, I had to use my time effectively in order to get my blog done in between the afternoon activities and meeting up with the UEF students later in the evening, so that my blog would be submitted on time. Additionally, when we had longer day trips, or a company visits was somewhat far away, I would work on my blog on the bus in order to get it done in an efficient use of time. As such, I believe that learning how to work with the time you are given, and working diligently in that amount of time has helped me develop my time management skills. This skill will not only help me with my classes and getting my work done on time, but also in my future career through getting my work done in a timely manner.
The next transferrable skill that I was able to refine was my communication skills. Before going on the trip, I knew no Vietnamese, so I knew that I would have to pay very close attention during my Vietnamese language lectures. Through the lectures, I was able to improve my communication skills with the UEF students and with Vietnamese citizens I interacted with. Even though the lectures were difficult, they prompted me to use a different part of my brain that engages in learning new languages, and upon surrounding myself with the culture, forced me to use the new language I was learning. Additionally, the UEF students all knew English, however sometimes we would come across a term or phrase in conversation that one person or the other could not understand. As such, my communication skills were also improved in scenarios like this because we would work around the term itself to describe it without actually saying it, or reword a question in a different way that made is less confusing. I learned how to communicate effectively in different scenarios, in order to express my ideas and have meaningful conversations. In turn, I am grateful that I was able to improve my communication skills, and I am further encouraged to test my communication skills and have an eagerness to learn new languages.
The final transferrable skill that I was able to refine while in Vietnam was teamwork ability. For example, we had a pre-departure presentation that needed to get done before leaving, and then while in Vietnam, I had to work with my team to create our new final presentation that was due on the last day. Since we had limited time, I had to work effectively with my team in the time given, and we worked well to split up the work to get our presentation done in the most effective manner. Additionally, when doing activities with the UEF students, we usually went as an entire group of 20, and with the UEF students were usually a group of 25. It was difficult at times to get everybody together and at the same place at the same time; however, we worked as a team in order to make sure that everybody was safe, and everybody could have an enjoyable time together. As such, I was able to improve my teamwork skills on a small scale with a group of four people, and also on a large scale with a group of 25. I found this skill to be very valuable, as I know that I will be working on different sized teams not only throughout the rest of my time at Pitt but also in my later career.
In all, I cannot put into words how grateful I am that I was able to do this program. It has taught me so many valuable things, and allowed me to form relationships with people across the world. I had the time of my life in Vietnam, and hopefully will be able to visit again someday.