What I want to do

July 22, 2019 | Genevieve, International Development and Globalization, Vietnam, Uniterra, Hanoi Open University (HOU) - Youth Engagement Officer

I am just finishing my second month in Hanoi. The city gets more and more unique everyday. I find new things to appreciate, and as with all cities, new things to be irritated by. After having the opportunity to travel to Siem Reap in Cambodia and Hue City in Central Vietnam, I have a new appreciation for how local Hanoi is. While both of those cities are incredibly beautiful, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the backpacker culture has influence their development. Of course Hanoi has it’s touristy area, the Old Quarter, and it’s expat area, West Lake. But even within these areas, the local culture is present; street food restaurants every 20 feet, “fruit ladies” (women carrying large baskets full of fruit, usually on bicycles) wandering about selling their goods and women in beautiful Ao Dais (traditional Vietnamese dresses) taking photos at every major landmark. I have a new appreciation for how cultured Hanoi is, and I am endless thankful that I get to do an internship in such a diverse city.

My second month posed a number of new challenges. I experienced miscommunications in the workplace daily. I would spend days on a task, constantly ask for approval and receive nothing, only to receive the news that everything needed to be changed the night before the product was to be delivered. Figuring out how to navigate this has been a struggle. At the same time, I have been dealing with personal issues with friends and family in Canada. Working with organizations like WUSC and HOU have allowed me to think critically about development and how it is administered, an opportunity that I am thankful for and will undoubtedly benefit me in the future. Having the other WUSC volunteers to rely on, to vent to after work and to share our mutual frustrations has been such a blessing. Similarly, I have also found support and inspiration from the students at HOU. Whenever I feel like there is no hope, that I have reached the end of my rope, that the project I’m pouring all of my time into is useless, I get to work with them. And they are constantly positive, curious and enthusiastic. They always uplift me and renew my energy without even knowing it. It is so special. They make all of the frustration at work, worth it.

Since I started my degree, I’ve always had a passion for development in education. Working at HOU has made me realize that this is really what I want to do. I didn’t have any expectation on what the issues in Vietnamese education may be. While there are a number of criticisms I have, particularly on the biased English as a Second Language programs, I have noticed two particular things from working with HOU. Students at HOU are faced with include lacking infrastructure and a lack of opportunity to apply what they learn. I can’t exactly speak on the quality of education, as I am not working directly in classrooms. But from what I have noticed, there seems to be a lack of funding. As a result, teachers, who are extremely dedicated, must work long hours to provide students with opportunities, like clubs and events, sometimes funding them out of their own pockets. From the lack of opportunity to practice what they are learning, I have noticed insecurity in many of the students. They are hesitant to participate and ask questions, especially in English. After talking to some other volunteers, it seems like this is a common problem among Vietnamese students. I believe that this is a result of the theory-based curriculum. Through the programs that are run through WUSC and the WUSC volunteers, I think that there is an amazing opportunity to increase youth engagement. In my 8 weeks working with the HOU students, I have already seen such an improvement. In my last month, I hope to contribute something truly meaningful to the students of Hanoi Open University.

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