Students Without Borders is a WUSC and CECI program that enables Canadian university and college students to participate in exciting, volunteer learning opportunities in South America, Africa, and Asia.

Looking Back

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.

1 Comment

  1. Duc Thien Nguyen on June 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Hi, I stumbled upon your site after searching for the word “nam moi”. I wondered earlier what it would be like to experience the “Vietnamese New Year” again since I haven’t celebrated a real one for a while. See, I left Ho Chi Minh City for the US when I was young and haven’t celebrated New Year like how I used to. I did come back last year for the first time though after graduated from school. It was during July and yeah, it was hottt and more crowded than how I remembered it. I was finally able to meet my grandma after 11yrs of being grandmaless and my other relatives too. No childhood friends though because I simply couldn’t remember where they all lived except for my neighbors. Time has really changed a lot of things. I felt a little pissed off when I couldn’t communicate with them as well as I used to. I had to chime in English words here and there and sounded like a total idiot or a foreigner even though I was born there.
    However, I think that you were very brave to just taking on such a trip. Going to a foreign country and just volunteer there for months, all on your own is something that not many college students are willing to do especially a small & developing country like Vietnam. I’ve never been to Hanoi before and didn’t know that it could be that cold. Brrrr, but I bet it’s not as cold there as here in North Dakota where I’m stationing at. LOL, I thought it was funny that you had to wear your coat inside every day and were afraid of leaving the bed because of frost bite (and you said that you’re a Canadian, eh?). But it’s true though that we don’t have heat or AC in our house except for the rich people. As for getting ripped off, I think that you probably were a magnet for that since you looked like a tourist with shiny blond hair and fair skin. When I came back to ‘Nam last year, I had already worked outside for two months during that summer and thought that I was tan enough to just fit in when I get back. But I was absolutely wrong since I was pale as a chicken compared with the people there.
    As for your ride “xe om” to work every morning, I think the guy who was your chauffeur will surely miss you too. lol d:-D. It was awesome that the staff showed you around and introduced you to our traditional food, yeah, I miss them too. As for you language skill, I think you are a great writer who will be very successful someday just not in Vietnamese lol! I know how hard it is but I got to admit that it’s pretty funny whenever I heard my friend trying to speak Vietnamese. It’s something that you have to absorb for a long time. Did you know that Anderson Cooper from CNN used to learn Vietnamese in Hanoi when he was a young reporter?
    Heyyy, I thought that I was a Rabbit. Oh well, being a Cat is not bad at all. Hearing your adventure during Tet definitely is making me wanting to go back next year. I just checked out the ticket, it’s a little expensive but I’ll just start saving now. The only thing that I worry about is if I’ll be able to take all 3 weeks off in January. LOL, “when in doubt about the food, it’s probably some form of rice thingy!” that’s just out of this world funny but it’s true, rice is nice. Well, thanks for the adventure, great writing, good luck with the rest of the school year!

    Sorry for writing too much d:-D
    Best ~ Nguyen