After two weeks in south Vietnam and a week to reflect on it, I’m sad to have left, but happy to have done it. Never would I have thought I would go to Vietnam to study the history and developing economy, let alone even go to Vietnam at all! I made many new friends, met new people, and learned things I never knew existed. Now I get to sit at home and not enjoy wonderful Phở every morning and not meet with my great friends from abroad; yeay! I hope my sarcastic remarks give you a sense of my opinions on the trip.
Aside from my amazing experience in and out of the classroom in Vietnam, I was forced to learn non-classroom skills to get by. As we were partnered up with the IEF students of UEF in the 3rd floor classroom, we had to learn to use clear words and enunciate them clearly. For example, if we wanted to ask a question regarding the students’ difficulty learning the English language, we couldn’t ask the question in a long-winded way using big words. We would have to enunciate the words clearly and sometimes use hand gestures to help them understand. I specifically remember talking to my Vietnamese friend Rio one of the first days and asking him, “Do you find it challenging acclimating to the English language, especially since the Vietnamese language uses tonal accents and diacritics?” That’s a perfect example of a bad question. He was confused. So, I learned to rephrase it as, “Do you think it’s hard to learn English? Because Vietnamese is very hard for us!” Sure, not all of the meaning was retained, but the basic question was transmitted to him, and that’s what it’s all about: communication between two parties.
Next, I had to learn how to be patient. Often, we had extremely long site visits on topics about which I was very uninterested. However, the companies were nice enough to host us, and I had to be respectful of their time and effort of showing us around and teaching about their company. And often in the workforce and in real life, we must be patient with many things. We’ll be forced to sit in boring meetings in which we have no important role or no interest, or we’ll have to attend classes on topics in which we’re not passionate. We must learn to be patient and be respectful to the person dedicating their time and effort to whatever it is they may be doing. We can’t whine like children and complain, slouching in our chairs and playing on our phones. Going to the six different site visits slapped me in the face with this skill. Though I didn’t always enjoy the site visits, I always tried to learn at least one valuable thing from them because I tried to be patient.
Finally, I, along with the other 19 students on the trip, had to learn effective time management. Though our schedule was for the most part planned, we had to learn to plan our days accordingly. Our afternoons were often planned by the Vietnamese students too, forcing us to plan any errands we needed to run, into our schedule. Frequently, we had to go to the grocery store or the currency exchange, which were both a far walk, and had to make it back in time to shower, change, write our blog posts, work on our projects, etc. In our future careers, it’s only going to get busier, and we’ll have to fit in even more than what we did before. This trip was a great foresight into what the world is like in the future when almost your entire day is planned, and you have to squeeze in even more that what you thought was possible.
Overall, I’m very fortunate to have gone to Vietnam. I’m thankful for the amazing instructors that went on the trip with us too, and their ability to tolerate and handle my often-frustrating shenanigans and tomfoolery. Going on this trip was a great way to see the possibilities and opportunities from studying abroad, and I know for sure I will be going to another country soon to do some sound learning.