I finished working at PanNature in Hanoi at the end of April but was in Asia until the 14th of May. There are quite honestly too many things to say about my experience.
First things first, it is unfortunate that my work experience with the environmental NGO in Hanoi was not as successful as I would have hoped. I learned some new skills and got to understand more about how NGOs function in developing states such as Vietnam. But I do know that I was a bit of a test-run for PanNature. They have had many volunteers but almost all of them were Vietnamese students, save two. Due to this I am not sure they were prepared to have a short-term volunteer but they will definitely be more prepared for the following interns that come their way.
Although my work experience wasn’t as stimulating as my idealistic mind had made it out to be in my apartment in Ottawa my personal journey was very meaningful. These opportunities don’t come along too often and I’d like to think that I embraced it for all it was worth. I had the highest of highs and some slightly low lows. Being alone is not something I enjoy for long periods of time but I learned how to take care of my sanity and focus my energy and communication in alternative manners. Knowing myself, which I believe I am quite good at, I will take the next months peeling back the layers of my Vietnamese escapades through debriefs with friends and family and especially with schoolmates and professors. I find it very helpful answering questions because it makes it real to me. I won’t ever forget my time in ‘Nam and know that I will never be exactly as I was before I left but I am confident that I will understand how great an experience it was.
While still in Asia I thought the most meaningful experiences was my personal and it probably is but since I’ve been back and I’ve had the chance to answer questions other than “How was it?” I have found that my understanding of the goings-on and efforts of Vietnam’s emerging economy, development and cultural practices has been significant. I can now understand so much better reasons why emerging Asian economies take the steps they do and what kind of impact regimes can have on a people. This knowledge is invaluable.
I had the opportunity to travel a fair amount in Vietnam either on my own, with the other Canadian interns or with PanNature. Apart from the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands I saw much of the landscape and the differences in the provinces and regions. For any future interns or travelers to ‘Nam I’ll just say that Sapa is my favourite place in Vietnam and it should be a must-see for anyone. Thank you WUSC Vietnam for being fantastic in every single way, I know my adventures were made better because of your work and kindness.