It’s October 28, 2017. I’m getting off my plane at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. For the past six weeks I had an amazing time backpacking in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Although I visited beautiful locations and had the time of my life, I felt like I was in a ‘backpacker bubble’. This made it hard for me to really get a connection with the locals. I feel like this was my time to give something back to this world and I was excited to start my AIESEC experience!
The start of an experience
The first thing I did in HCMC is meeting my buddy Katie. She was a nice girl who showed me the neighborhood and most importantly, the best food places around. A few days later, the project, called Global Navigator, really started. The goal of my internship was teaching soft skills to the Vietnamese youth. In the first weeks the local committee, a great team of Vietnamese students, trained me. One week later, we interviewed our future students.
Let’s start working!
In the fourth week I started teaching, together with Junay, a cute, funny and enthusiastic girl from Indonesia, the best partner I could have wished for. The main theme we were teaching about was ‘teamwork’.
Every lesson we talked about a different subskill, like communication, decision making and problem solving. Our students were 30 ambitious Vietnamese university students, aged between 18 and 28. Junay and I didn’t call ourselves teachers, because we didn’t teach, we shared. Sharing is the perfect word to describe our lessons, because we learned just as much from the students as they learned from us. A perfect example of a sharing moment happened during our ‘conflict solving’ class. We all sat in a circle and talked about how we’ve experienced conflicts during our life. With the genuine involvement of the students and the useful tips they give each other, this felt like an inspiring moment.
After some time had passed, I realized I didn’t feel like a tourist anymore – I escaped from the backpacker bubble! I was hanging out at local spots with my Vietnamese friends, where I got to taste their favorite dishes. I participated in their crazy photoshoots (they LOVE Instagram) and I was even able to cross the streets without almost getting killed!
Unfortunately, the three weeks of sharing went by extremely fast. On the day of the farewell party it was hard to believe we almost had to leave this beautiful city and these amazing people. But the effort it took to say goodbye, showed us how great this experience has been for everyone involved in the project.
And that’s exactly how I look back at this project, as a great experience. In the start of the project I stood before a class, full of strangers, in an unknown country. Thoughts like ‘how am I ever going to live up to their expectations?’ were running through my head. But I learned that the most important thing in situations like these is to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. That’s how I learned to empower my students and how I truly made a difference. AIESEC, thank you for this opportunity, I will never forget these amazing six weeks in Vietnam!
This post was written Liana Wobben. Liana went on a voluntary project to Vietnam powered by AIESEC in the Netherlands. AIESEC offers international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth.