It’s October 28, 2017. I’m getting off my plane at Tan Son Nat 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, being in a ‘backpacker bubble’, made it hard to really get a connection with the locals. I feel like this is my time to do something back to this world and I am excited to start my AIESEC project!
The first thing I do in HCMC is meeting my buddy Katie. She is a nice girl who shows me the neighbourhood and most importantly, the best food places around. A few days later, the project, called Global Navigator, really starts. The goal of my internship is teaching soft skills to the Vietnamese youth. In the first weeks I am trained by the organizing committee, a great team of Vietnamese students. In the third week we interview our future students.
In the fourth week I start teaching, together with Junay, a cute, funny and enthusiastic girl from Indonesia, the best partner I could have wished for. The main theme we are teaching about is ‘teamwork’. Every lesson we talk about a different subskill, like communication, decision making and problem solving. Our students are 30 ambitious Vietnamese university students, aged between 18 and 28. Junay and I don’t call ourselves teachers, because we don’t teach, we share. Sharing is the perfect word to describe our lessons, because we learn just as much from the students as they learn from us. A perfect example of a sharing moment happens during our ‘conflict solving’ class. We all sit in a circle and talk 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 feels like an inspiring moment.
After some time has passed, I realise I don’t feel like a tourist anymore: I escaped from the backpacker bubble! I am hanging out at local spots with my Vietnamese friends, where I get to taste their favourite dishes. I participate in their crazy photoshoots (they LOVE Instagram) and I am even able to cross the streets without almost getting killed!
Unfortunately, the three weeks of sharing go by extremely fast. On the day of the farewell party it’s hard to believe we almost have to leave this beautiful city and these amazing people. But the effort it takes to say goodbye, tells 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 people I didn’t know, in a strange 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.