What started as simply a two-week study abroad, molded itself into a once in a lifetime experience showing and teaching me more than I ever could have expected. The most special part of this trip was working directly with a Vietnamese college, UEF, and interacting with people my age who grew up and live in Ho Chi Minh city. This allowed us as a group to get a more authentic experience and not feel as though we were outsiders looking in to the culture, instead we were experiencing it firsthand. Through this, I really learned that even though we may live on completely opposite sides of the world, we are all people and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, just as the Vietnamese students treated us. If I had to highlight three skills I utilized and reinforced this trip they would be time management, active listening, and finding ways to articulate my thoughts and feelings to whoever I was talking with.
As this trip was very busy and we were always on the move, time management was a must for me to not only write my blogs on time, but also to keep myself organized and prepared. Our days always included some sort of daytime activity whether it be going to UEF, a company site visit, or site seeing. However, when we got back to the hotel, we had about two hours to shower, write a blog, and get ready for dinner and any nighttime activities that were planned. I loved this fast-paced trip because it meant that there was always something to do and it gave me an opportunity to practice my time management. I was a little flustered the first couple days as everything was so new, however I began to figure out a rhythm and by the end of the trip had a routine down that worked perfectly for me. I am excited to have had this experience because summer usually promotes laziness, but this trip has kept me attentive of my time and I hope to continue this throughout the rest of summer and the upcoming fall semester.
As all overseas trips come with, the language barrier was an obstacle that we all had to overcome and find ways around it. Thankfully, the Vietnamese students and presenters spoke at least some English, however it was sometimes difficult to understand them with their accents. Every time I talked with either a student, I made sure to give them my full attention as I needed to understand everything they were saying. This active listening also translated over to the site visits and anytime we were listening to a presentation. Everything we learned was so interesting that I wanted to learn more and ask questions, however I had to always be paying close attention to be able fully understand what we were learning and be able to ask relevant questions.
Asking questions not only allowed us to learn more, but it also showed the presenters that we were genuinely interested in what they had to tell us. However, along with us having a hard time understanding some of the Vietnamese people, they also had a hard time understanding us. There were plenty of occasions where we had to reword our questions to make sure that our point got across. In my opinion, this was the most important skill that I learned this trip as I realized how much unnecessary words I use when asking questions. As native English speakers, we get so used to using filler words and explaining our question before we get to the point. After making this realization, I began to write down my questions on paper and think about what I was really asking so I could clearly convey my question to who I was asking.
Overall, I am extremely thankful for this experience and will never forget the memories that I made and the people that I met over the past two weeks. I not only learned about Vietnam and its development, but I also learned many priceless skills that I plan to carry with me throughout the rest of my life.