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Surprised by Vietnam

The idea of doing a semester abroad had always interested me but was something that seemed a little bit unrealistic. So when the opportunity to do a short-term international trip with UTS BUILD came up I jumped at the opportunity – especially when I found out that the International Management Field Study was in Vietnam, as it was somewhere that I had never been.

I have been to a couple of Southeast Asian countries before, so I thought that I knew what to expect when we were finally in country. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how progressive Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi actually were. Obviously, it’s still a developing nation, but many of the urbanised areas mirrored elements of Sydney, and you could tell the extent of the development as old and new buildings juxtaposed each other.

We conducted numerous business visits while in Vietnam, encompassing a range of different industries such as education and tech, expanding across NGO’s and multi-national corporations. These visits added a lot of value to my degree because they contextualised so much of what I am learning in a business degree on a global scale. I have lived abroad before but wasn’t sure if that is something that I wanted to do again once I had finished my study. But being exposed to multi-national businesses and hearing the experiences (both good and challenging) for expats actually made me excited at the prospect of living overseas again.

The culture in Vietnam was really unique and easy to become immersed in, I loved the sense of community that was felt as you saw people in the streets with friends or working. I had some basic knowledge of Vietnam’s history before going but being faced with the reality of things like the Vietnam War and the impact that it still has on people today was shocking – this was really highlighted when visiting the War Remnants Museum in HCMC.

Despite this, and the reality of the tragedy that can be quite overwhelming, what really stood out to me was the resilience of the Vietnamese people, especially the women, which was highlighted to me in our visits! They’ve have worked so hard to be where they are today and are continuing to overcome monumental challenges, yet still manage to have such a positive perspective. I think this is something that I will always carry with me as it has shifted my perspective.

I was nervous going into the trip as I didn’t know anyone, this really pushed me out of my comfort zone! I was so glad that I did this though because I was lucky to be in a group of students who were all happy to talk to everyone and were really inclusive. The cultural experience aside, it’s amazing what you learn about 30 other people, and yourself, while travelling.

Overall it was a great two weeks, between the travel, business visits, cultural sites, exploring and dinner I don’t know how we managed to do so much! I loved that we moved from HCMC, to the Mekong Delta and then up to Hanoi. It gave me such a dynamic overview of an incredible country. It is really hard to pick a highlight from my time in Vietnam, so I think I will have to go back and do it again!


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