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GIEU Vietnam -- Community Development and Entrepreneurship

by Erica Whiting

Journal 1: 5/12/2018

So… I’m in Vietnam!

It’s nothing like I could have imagined, and I love it! Ho Chi Minh City is so crazy and there are people and motorbikes and shops everywhere and something new to look at everywhere. The traffic is no joke. The first time my cohort and I crossed the street today… one of the most heart-pumping things I’ve ever done. There are cars and motorbikes and pedestrians everywhere and seemingly no rules, but its still completely functional and one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

And don’t even get me started on the food!! Our first night in Vietnam was spent slurping pho, a classic noodle soup dish that immediately tasted like comfort food. I could die happy and it’s only been about 2 days. I can’t wait to try everything!!

Our internship begins after the weekend, and I am so excited to get started and meet the kids we will be teaching English to for a month. The internship will entail our cohort assisting three different local non-profit organizations in Ho Chi Minh City that support the education of less fortunate children or people with disabilities. Our job will be helping with teaching English and building rapport for the organizations. We hope to make lasting relationships and meaningful experiences with the organizations and to help however we can for the short time we are there. I’ve never worked with kids before but I’m sure it will be very fun and cute :)

That’s it for now; I’m off to explore more of Ho Chi Minh City!!

Journal 2: 5/24/2018

Hello! I’m writing from the Mekong Delta region, about 2 hours outside of HCMC.

We are staying at a homestay for the weekend and it is so beautiful here! The family we are staying with has been very kind and welcoming, and let us into their home as if we were part of the family ourselves. I’m not sure what their perceptions of us Americans were, because they didn’t speak English and left us to ourselves for the most part. They did include us in the meal preparation a bit, and taught us how to make spring rolls and Vietnamese pancakes. Yesterday we explored a market and a candy factory, and today we visited a few families during a bike tour around the island. It was a lot of fun and the bike tour was a really enjoyable and laid-back way to see the country and wave hello to the locals.

We ate a delicious lunch on a ferry boat and even got to listen to some traditional Vietnamese folk music performed live. Our homestay family put on the show for us and even though we couldn’t understand the lyrics the performance was really nice and told a beautiful story, and they looked like they enjoyed themselves performing for us. The whole weekend has been a very rejuvenating and relaxing one away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, and has given me another view of a quieter side of vietnam. The culture in the city seems more fast-paced and development-focused, in the city, people seemed always busy and there was a lot of rushing around. In the countryside, people seemed more relaxed. There is still pressure to provide, but they did things less on a schedule it seemed. The people valued relaxing in nature and being with their family. I’m so thankful and happy to be in such a beautiful place, but am eager to return to the ever-exciting city tomorrow morning 

Journal 3: 6/5/2018

Time really does fly when you are having fun.

Today was the last day at our internship, so we had to say goodbye to the kids that we’d been teaching English to for the past three weeks. It was amazing to see the progress the students made in the short time we had been working there, and I’m still so impressed by the students’ enthusiasm for learning. The kids were very competitive and we soon learned the best way to keep their attention for learning was through making academic games for them to play. They loved charades and a ‘word race’ game we came up with that involved them recalling the vocab we had taught them. But some of my favorite moments from the internship were the days we stayed to eat lunch at the organization with our students, as it gave us a chance to hang out with the kids in a causal setting and really got to see their personalities. It was really sad to leave and I will definitely remember all of the kids for a long time. I’m glad a few of the older students added me on Facebook so that I can keep an eye on the little rascals :) I was surprised that I would be able to form such strong bonds with others despite the language barrier, and I will miss the kids and the organization very much.

I only have a short time left in Vietnam, and I feel like I still have so much to see and do. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in this country and am not quite ready to go home. I’m so thankful for the perspectives that I’ve gained staying in a country much different than my own. The people and my peers living here have such different realities than mine that I had no way to imagine before, and my new knowledge will influence how I think about issues of politics and education for the rest of my life. When I return to Ann Arbor this fall, I hope that I will become more involved in the politics of the university and the education system in the United States in general. Even though I know that I am very privileged to be receiving an education in the United States, I now understand just how important education is, and want to learn what I can do even here in the US to improve education policies for everyone.

I’m so thankful for my time spent in Vietnam, and I will be sad to leave. I am unsure if I will ever be able to return to Vietnam, as travel opportunities so far in my life have been few. However, if the opportunity would arise, I definitely would not hesitate! The pho alone is enough to bring me back, but I had never been to a place as exciting and friendly as HCMC. I hope that the relationships I formed will continue once I am back overseas, and that the memories I’ve formed will last a lifetime.