Education in Vietnam

November 27, 2015 | Rachel, Vietnam, Uniterra, Tra Vinh University, Academic Skills Trainer

I was given the wonderful opportunity to work at Tra Vinh University (TVU) here in South Vietnam, where I spent 10 weeks creating and running workshops to develop academic and soft skills for university and secondary students.

Honestly, working in the education sector of development scared me a little, for a few reasons. Firstly, as an International Development student, I was extremely aware of the implications of foreigners working in education. I know that I had to be firm about my role working at a school, constantly reaffirming that I do not deserve the title of a teacher, but rather a collaborative trainer that helps with curriculum, not necessarily teaching. Secondly, while I have experience in running leadership workshops and training, I knew it would be a challenge for me to train academic skills, especially in another language. However, even with these challenges in front of me, I was able to have a great experience at TVU.

One of the most amazing things I was able to experience is the working relationships between teachers and students here in Vietnam. In Tra Vinh, teachers and students are friends, while still maintaining a healthy amount of authority between them. It is extremely common for students to go for coffee with their students, and to have dinner together as a group. Students can text their teachers if they need help, or even call their cell phones to ask them a simple question. There are also Filipino student interns doing a teaching internship here, and they explained to me that it is the same for them in the Philippines. I even got to sit in during one of their Skype calls with their supervisor, which was so nice to witness.

I was surprised to see how close students and teachers are here and in other parts of the world, and it made me question why there is such a divide between teachers and students in Canada, especially when it comes to university. I know part of it is the size of classes in university here. With classes with 200+ students, there simply isn’t enough time to get to know each other. That aside, it is just not within our culture to have the kind of relationship where we can call our teachers on their phones for help, or go for coffee. While I have had great teachers in both high school and university that I felt I could turn to for academic or career advice, that is usually the extent of the relationship between teacher and student.

I admire the friendship between teachers and students here. When I spoke to students at TVU about how different it is for students back in Canada, they were so surprised that we are not nearly as close to our teachers as they are to theirs. I think that the closeness between teachers and students helps motivate the students here. They do not want to let their teachers down. Students are more likely to show up to class because someone will actually notice when they are gone, unlike my experience in university. Students do not hesitate to ask teachers for extra help when they need it, and will ask them questions related to their homework on Facebook. They are eager to participate in extra-curricular activities because they care about learning even more from their teachers. They are able to set this closeness between them, but still have complete respect for their teachers, because it is important in Vietnamese culture to respect those in authority, especially with age. When I ran workshops at the secondary school, I was always greeted with “Hello teacher!” and a polite bow. When I left the room, every student says “Goodbye teacher, see you again!” in unison as a sign of respect. At first, I was really uncomfortable with being called “teacher” because as I mentioned earlier, I never wanted to be seen as a teacher because I am not properly trained to be one, and don’t feel I deserve the title. With time I realized that it was about respect, and I embraced the title to help establish authority, and continued to maintain the effort to also get to know the students. I think it was great to see how Vietnamese students can have both friendship and respect for their teachers.

Getting to know the students at TVU despite being a “teacher” was a big part of why my experience ended up being incredible. It allowed me to get to know them and integrate in the community better than I ever imagined. I was able to ask powerful questions that we discussed in pre-departure training that I would’ve been extremely shy to ask before. The students at TVU told me about their dreams for the future, their families, and about Vietnamese culture. I was able to get a better idea of the needs of students and the soft skills they wanted to develop, and I couldn’t have gotten that information if I didn’t establish a friendship first. I could only imagine how much more I could’ve learned if I was staying longer.

Working at a school ended up being the best fit for me as it gave me a community of people within Tra Vinh to learn from and get to know. It showed me an aspect of Vietnamese culture that I absolutely love and wish I could bring back to Canada.

One more day

November 26, 2015 | Sabrina, Inde, Jeunesse Canada Monde , SPID, Program Assistant

“I do not fall in love easily”. That’s probably the biggest lie I have ever told. I tell it to myself and I tell it to other people. I tell them that I will not fall in love with them. I lie.

My past 3 months in India have been incredible. I fell in love deeply and sincerely every single day. I fell in love with the people that I have met. I fell in love with the places I have been. I fell in love with the culture. I fell in love with the landscape. I fell in love with myself. And there is nothing harder and more heartbreaking than having to say goodbye when you are still in love, but it is time for me to go.

I wish I could have one more day here. Yes, it is silly, but I would give anything to have that extra day. I wish I could spend one more day with my amazing Indian family. My friend Amrita became my sister, her brother Tarun my brother, her mother my Indian mother, her father my Indian father. I wish I could have one more day to wake up in the “princess bed” hearing our Indian father saying good morning. One more day to be proud of the hard work accomplished by my “didi” while she cleans the house before getting ready to go to work. One more day to cook chapattis and have the best dhal in the world. One more day to laugh with them and learn Hindi. One more day to go to the market with Amrita, or the Salon, or the mall, or wherever, but one more day to spend with her.

I wish I could have one more day here to lay down somewhere with some amazing new friends. It is crazy how you can connect quickly to some people. I have made friends from around the world while being in India and although I don’t know when will be the next chance I’ll get to spend time with them, I know I’ll keep cherish them in my heart and wishing them the best in life. I wish I could have one more day to go around in Delhi, a chaotic place that I now call home. I wish I could have one more day to spend in the orange landscape of Rajasthan. I wish that I could have one more day to observe the fine line between life and death from the Ganges in Varanasi. I wish I could have one more day to feel the immensity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. I wish I could have one more day in Kerala to trek under the rain and to sing Frozen songs over and over again. But it is time to let it go now.

More than anything, I wish I could have one more day to look in the eyes of the people that I love. I know there is some eyes I will never meet again and that thought breaks my heart.

This internship was an incredible opportunity. Not for the work accomplished, but for the eyes met and the hearts touched. I will never forget how alive has India made me feel.

I just wish I could have one more day to fall in love. I have been falling in love over and over again every day I have been here and it has been the best feeling on earth.

Internship at SSMI: An Empowering Experience

November 16, 2015 | Catherine Morasse, Stagiaire

From the moment I applied for an internship at the Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute (SSMI) to my departure in early September, I was bombed with travel advice from anyone, or almost, who learned about my plan. My aunt, my coworkers, my hairdresser: everybody gave me their own rules to protect me from the dangers of, well, everything. You shall not eat street food, dairy products, or uncooked fruits and vegetables. You shall not talk to strangers, smile at men, wear sleeves shorter than your elbows; you shall not come back home later than 7 p.m., go out alone, ride another metro car than the one reserved for ladies, or talk about your ex-boyfriend. You shall not run, dance, laugh, eat or drink anything, sneeze, blink, breathe…

What you should know about me, though, is that I am the perfect target for such behaviour. I am 21. I am a pale-skinned. I am notorious for making travel plans that fall apart at the last minute – that is to say, I haven’t travelled much. And on top of all, by a stroke of luck, I happen to be born female. In other words, I am a magnet for travel warnings, especially when they are related to gender inequalities in my country of destination.

With that background of somehow questionable advice, I spent the first days of my internship with SSMI at an international exhibition between women entrepreneurs of the SAARC countries. This series of conferences was an occasion to discuss the many challenges women face in business. It is also where I got to experience one of a long series of surprises: I understood that there was no surprise.

Wait, let’s recap.

In 2013, Canadian women outnumbered their male counterparts as creators of small to medium enterprises. In India, only 10 % of businesses of that type are owned by women. Of course, I am not denying that there is a wide gap between Canada’s and India’s percentages; but despite that difference, I found that the challenges faced by businesswomen are very similar. Whether it is in Canada or in India, women do have a harder time than men when it comes to getting access to finance. Motherhood, as rewarding as it can be, is also an obstacle worldwide to finding the time to build an enterprise. And culturally speaking, Indian women are not encouraged to be at the head of businesses and to travel alone for work-related purposes.

My first reaction to that third challenge was to think that Canadian women don’t face that kind of obstacle, coming from a culture that has been marked by decades of feminist fights. That is what I thought… until I reminded myself of all the times I have been discouraged from going to India based on the fact that I belong to le sexe faible, “the weaker sex”.

If a young woman from a supposedly equal country is being brought down for wanting to spend three months at an “unusual” destination, how much pressure does an Indian woman get for wanting to dedicate years of her life to something seen as atypical? If it takes me all the guts I have to stand my ground despite my entourage’s expectations, what does it take for women entrepreneurs to go against the flow of an entire society where gender inequalities are “very rampant”?

SSMI is a non-profit organization aiming for the empowerment of women. By teaching them hard skills, we give them tools to make their choices, regardless of other people’s expectations of them (which are, for most of our beneficiaries, to stay home and raise children). I might not be part of the group targeted by SSMI, but working there still had an impact on me: of all the advice that was given to me, I followed none. I made the perfectly conscious choice to shut my ears to it. And not only did ignoring other people’s expectations and opening to everything India had to offer made my experience so much richer; it was also incredibly empowering.

City Girl in a Rural World

November 16, 2015 | Rachel, Vietnam, Uniterra, Tra Vinh University, Academic Skills Trainer

Hello from Tra Vinh, Vietnam!

I have grown up my whole life as a city girl. I was raised in Toronto, and for a long time, I viewed even Ottawa as “small” despite it being a great city with so much to do and discover, and I had to adjust from the busy life of Toronto to the more quiet but still great Ottawa. Imagine the adjustments I had to make moving to a rural town in Vietnam!

When I arrived in Vietnam, I was met with Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam’s version of Toronto in my eyes. Not the capital, but instead the modern hub of the country, where urbanization is the norm. I spent a couple of days there for training before heading to Tra Vinh City - the capital of Tra Vinh province, south of Ho Chi Minh City, settled within the Mekong Delta. Upon arrival, I could already see how much my city instincts were going to get in the way of living comfortably. I was met with lizards inside my room, which completely shocked me! Of course I quickly learned that they are harmless, and in fact, they are our “friends” as they eat all the bugs in the room! However, being someone that grew up deeply rooted in the city, I found myself experiencing culture shock. I’m used to cars and public transit, not motorbikes and bicycles. I am not used to cows running through the soccer fields as they do on campus here. And I am not used to eating outdoors on plastic chairs. I was finding it hard to adjust to life in Tra Vinh for the first few weeks. I felt extremely out of my element and found it difficult to relate to people. I let my discomfort get in the way of embracing a new place and truly experiencing the culture, and it hindered me from thriving for awhile.

As time went on, I realized that it was really single-minded of me to create such a separation between “city” and “country”. As I made more friends my age, I realized that there are so many things I could relate to here, and so many things I had in common with my fellow young adults in Vietnam. One of the biggest misconceptions about more rural areas is the idea that there is a lack of technology in any place that isn’t urban. However, I learned that internet here is even more popular than it is in Canada! Every cafe, no matter what size, has free wifi. Cellular data here is inexpensive and extremely accessible. I communicate with my colleagues most over email and text messaging. All the students I run workshops with are reliant on their cellphones, just as I am. They constantly use translation applications on their cellphones to ask me questions, the same way I use Google to figure out what to order at restaurants here. I was so quick to decide that my life in urban Canada would be so different than life in Tra Vinh, when that is not the case at all. One of the first things I am asked by new friends is, “Can I add you on Facebook?” showing me how similar friendships are formed here and in Canada. Connecting digitally with my friends in Vietnam also shows me how fast globalization is occurring. It is true that technology is truly transcending borders, showing me how easy it is to connect to others, despite growing up in extremely different settings. I am able to communicate with my friends in Vietnam and my friends in Canada the exact same way - through text messaging, Facebook, and phone calls.

I am learning that all young people, regardless of where they live, see the value in education. I work at both a university and a high school, so I am constantly surrounded with students around my age. As I run workshops with the high school students, I see my younger self in so many of them. I recognize their worry over university acceptance, just as I had all throughout my senior year. I see their interactions and the groups of friends that stick together, just as I did with my friends. I feel their desire to grow into young adults, just as I did throughout my whole teenage life. When I run workshops at the university, I relate even more as I am often the same age as the participants of my workshops. I understand completely when they tell me their number one priority after graduation is to find a job, as that is mine too. No matter where you grow up, we all strive for the same thing - to become the best version of ourselves.

Most importantly, I learned about the universal importance of friendship. For awhile, I let the language barrier prevent me from making friends. I reverted in myself a lot; I let my shyness overpower my desire to make real connections here because I was worried that I wouldn’t be understood. Soon I remembered the most universal beginning of a friendship - a smile. The way we express ourselves to others without words is just as important as a first conversation. I learned to become approachable again, and finally found myself making friendships and feeling integrated into life here in Tra Vinh, which makes being abroad even more meaningful.

I may have been raised in the city, but I am slowly but surely feeling more like a citizen of the world.

The mandate. The challanges.

November 16, 2015 | Mariya, Vietnam,WUSC, Hanoi Open University, Youth Market Resarch Officer

I tried to write a blog entry about my mandate in the beginning of my internship. However, because it kept constantly changing and evolving (as it often happens when you are a short-time intern), I decided to wait until my last week of the internship to share the summary of what I actually did during nine weeks in Hanoi, Vietnam.

As a Students Without Borders intern from Uniterra, I was partnered up with public university - Hanoi Open University. I was selected to assist the faculty of Tourism to conduct a need assessment and create workshops on academic and soft skills topics for students who are currently studying Hospitality Management as well as Tour Guide majors. During this time I have delivered as many as forty five workshop on different topics like: Internet Essentials, Note-Taking Strategies, Resume Building and Successful Interview, English Self-study, Public Speaking Skills, Self-confidence building, Goal-Setting. Students had an opportunity to register through school administrators as well as through university’s social media Facebook page. The main objective of these compulsory special topic courses were to increase the better quality of education and increase competitiveness among students. During the sessions, it was ensured that the participation representation of men and women were included.

No internship comes without challenges. One of the challenges was the language barrier. Frankly, I was very surprised how limited English speaking skills were among majority of students. At the same time, their grammar and vocabulary are phenomenal! What a paradox. The only explanation I have found was that they had to study grammar really hard throughout school, yet there was no speaking practice involved in learning the language. Therefore, Vietnamese students can write well, and speak quite poorly. That factor significantly impacted the participation during special topic courses facilitated by me.

Another challenge was the university’s facilities. Because it is a government institution where one-year tuition costs around 7,000,000VND (CAD$415), the equipment, resources and other amenities were limited. For example, one of the campuses I have worked at actually rents the classrooms on the territory of the food manufacturing plant. For the faculty that consists of 332 students there are only 8 classrooms available (including a computer lab). In addition to that, administrators are prohibited to give away WiFi password for students to use (assuming they will be distracted during the class). Often rooms were overbooked that strongly impacted the quality of workshops. Also, because there are mostly adjuncts who work in the university, I have noticed that sometimes classes are cancelled because of their other job. Consequently, what have surprised me the most was that students do not have set schedule for the semester.  Every Friday or even Saturday, students receive their schedule for Monday over Facebook. Because of that, many students are unable to even have a part time job and therefore gain some experience and practice their soft skills before the graduation and entering a real job market. For that reason, youth between 20 and 24 years-old are considered “unqualified” for many jobs even after receiving a diploma.

Of course, as an intern I really hope that my work had made some impact. However, because it is hard to track if students have used soft skills in their daily life, I cannot be sure how valuable my workshops where for them. Therefore, my last week of the internship I am working closely with the faculty to help them integrate the materials I have taught into their semester curriculum program.

The Problem with Aid Darlings

November 13, 2015 | Shahreen, South Africa, Gender at work, Labour Research Service and Gender at Work for Cape Town, intern

The last two weeks the other intern and I were conducting interviews with participants of the Labor Rights for Women campaign, most of them being Gender Coordinators in South African trade unions. A common theme throughout many of the interviews was the issue that the campaign was still needed and there as a lot of work to be done. This is because the LRW campaign was ending due to discontinuation of funding.

Back when we were at Joberg, I was told securing funding was difficult in South Africa and all the old sources were drying up. The main funder for Letsema, an LRS initiative against gender-based violence, was a Swiss company that would raise money through citizens, but, increasingly, citizens were losing interest in sending money to South African initiatives.

There is a definite culture or trend for foreign aid, as we’ve been taught. For every aid darling, there’s an aid orphan. Aid darlings can often fall, too, when they no longer exhibit what some call good governance. One of the main reasons that South Africa doesn’t receive (as much) aid is due to its status as a middle-income country despite indicators that have shown wide disparities in wealth among the population. In comparison to Rwanda, a longstanding Aid Darling, that’s (for all intents and purposes) exhibited a good control of corruption post-genocide, South Africa is seen as quite corrupt, which no doubt discourages foreign aid as donors may worry it’s a poor investment.

But what are the consequences when aid is allocated based on a set of conditions rather than need or merit?

For South Africa, this means that programmes like LRW and Letsema have limited potential, forced too soon to end. This in turn perpetuates poverty. What I’ve learned first-hand in SA is that poverty goes beyond a limited access to finance but a limited access to education and thus a limited access to the wider world. For many participants of the LRW programme, this was their first foray to being educated on gender rights and the LGBTI community. When education isn’t present, people tend to rely on tradition and/or societal views. This may explain gender-based violence, the rape and attacks of lesbians, and the killings and physical assault of gay men.

Although I usually try to end things on a lighter note, this has been extremely frustrating for me, talking to participants about how much they’ve gained through programmes like LRW, and realizing that so many others would not have the access to information they’ve had. On a wider societal level, this meant that things would stay the same. There is a desire to learn; all people have that innately, but when it’s not nurtured, especially when it’s not nurtured in the masses, naturally, there is ignorance.

To conclude, I don’t enjoy living in a world with so much ugliness. It bothers me – and that’s what motivates me to change things.

The life, the taste, the colours, the smells, the sights, the emotions: what you can’t learn in a classroom

November 12, 2015 | Melissa, Trinidad and Tobago, MAC, The Women’s Institute for Alternative Development, Disarmament Program Support Officer

Looking back on the period leading up to my departure and the two months that have passed since I arrived, I realize that there are two very different perceptions of Trinidad and Tobago. Most of friends, family, colleagues, and peers seemed to be under the impression that I was going to the Caribbean to relax on the beach for three months. T&T is a small twin-island nation and it is somewhat understandable that there are a large number of people who know little about this place, so many people base their perceptions on the stereotypical Caribbean all-inclusive vacation experience. One the other hand Trini’s who’ve I’ve spoken to while in Canada and those that I have met here, hold a completely different perception. I have been consistently warned about the danger and corruption present in T&T and am instructed to be incredibly careful and always on guard. This is all good advice when travelling, but what I find interesting is how completely different these two views are.

Neither perception adequately represents this beautiful country. Yes, there are some beaches but there’s so much more to see, and yes, it is common to hear gunshots at night but every person on the street will say “good evening”. My experience here has been wonderful. Port of Spain is somehow chaotic but calm; the general pace of things is hectic, but the attitude relaxed. Hailing a maxi-taxi around the Queen’s Park Savannah is a rushed activity as cars weave in and out of a seemingly never-ending flow of traffic. But after work it’s time to “lime” and people are relaxing and laughing with friends and loved ones. I fear not being able to adequately capture how incredibly “cool” Trinidad is.

I have come to love this place, it’s all a matter of managing things. Learning to deal with the traffic, navigate around the island, eat “doubles” without dumping them all over yourself, and how to dodge cars on streets barely wide enough for a single car, it’s all bean a really incredible experience. I think what has been the most fulfilling experience has been learning how to get around by myself. Most everyone has to get around by taxi but they operate more like buses – traveling established routes in a cramped car with unfamiliar faces. The island isn’t very big but getting around can be very difficult if you do not have someone to instruct you on where to catch a taxi heading towards your destination.

The nuanced cultural relations in this diverse nation have a distinct effect on daily life in T&T that is best experienced first hand. Trinidad is a place where you can see beautiful beaches, mangrove swamps, and the world’s only natural asphalt lake but it is also a place where there are many underserviced or “squatter” communities such as Sea Lots, a great deal of economic disparity, and where violent crime is a daily factor in many people’s lives. Trinidad is diverse, beautiful, and also a place where caution must be exercised, but where the people are friendly and helpful.

Discussing theory in the classroom is vastly different from experiencing a new country firsthand. Nuances of culture are an integral part of the learning experience. Context is everything. Doing the work, understanding the theory, going through the motions is one thing, but actually trying to understand the why is so much more complicated than it sounds. We sit in classrooms that stress investigation but from all that I have read about Trinidad, nothing could have prepared me for the real thing.

Now that I’ve been here for two months and have had a chance reflect on these various perceptions, I have developed a better understanding of the importance of context and experience. Most of my research here has been into the specific circumstances of various communities, while the majority of my UOttawa classes have been largely theoretical. This opportunity has really taught me a great deal about the importance of culture and context. There is no way that this could be duplicated in the classroom, and I’m thankful to be lucky enough to learn these lessons all while enjoying a wonderful part of the world.

Changing perceptions

November 10, 2015 | Libertad, Guatemala, Uniterra, CECI , Baseline Assessment Intern

When I first got to Guatemala, I was very excited but at the same time I was very scared about the crime and violence in the country. The first day I was so scared to go out, I have never felt that way before.  I was looking around me all the time, I felt so vulnerable.  I thought with anxiety, “I hope I will not feel this way for my whole internship period because I do not think I can live like this for three months”. I have been almost half way into my internship since that day and I feel completely different.  It feels so right to be here, of course, I know that I need to be careful, but I feel relaxed and my perception of the situation has changed. If we watch and/or read the news about Guatemala in the media, it seems that there is only violence and crimes in the country. There is no place for anything else. However, when you live here you can see that this is only a part of the reality, there is another part of the picture which is lost, and in my opinion, that part is the most important one. Guatemala is a country where people are full of creativity and energy to resist global economic forces and social injustices. Guatemala is also a country where different cultures live together which makes it a fountain of art, ancestral knowledge, marvellous cuisine, and numerous languages.

There is not one reality, there are thousands of them. We need to go deeper in the different discourses which form our own perceptions of a country, community, person, culture etc…, because sometimes the best things remain invisible at first sight. Dominant discourses are dangerous and simplistic, and in general, they hide interests and stereotypes.  That’s why I think it is fundamental to revise and re-read the different stories that seem so neutral. We need to go further in our analysis of the world that we live.

Learning about the dynamics

November 5, 2015 | Sara, Vietnam , Mines Action Canada, Project RENEW, MAC intern at Project RENEW

When I was first looking at doing an international internship I was drawn to the mine action related internships because I felt that it touched on both of my fields of study, my major being conflict studies and human rights and my minor being history. I felt that partnering with an NGO in Vietnam that works on the mine and UXO issue would help me understand more about the legacies of war and how the conflicts of the past are still impacting people today. During my second month here in central Vietnam I have had the opportunity to learn so much about the legacies of the war.

I was given the opportunity to go on field visits and see how the demining process works. I visited Project RENEW’s sites as well as MAG (Mines Advisory Group) sites and saw how their deminers survey the land and identify where their detectors have picked up a signal. There is also a pilot project in Quang Tri province where they are using trained dogs to find explosives and survey land and I had the opportunity to see how their operations work as well. To make things even better, I visited these sites alongside a delegation of Southeast Asian mine action leaders. Not only did I learn a lot about demining in Quang Tri province and specifically how Project RENEW’s operations work but I was able to learn about the broader regional dynamics through conversations with these delegates. From talking to women who are leaders of their demining teams in Cambodia to ex-military personnel who now work for demining NGOs in Sri Lanka, it was really eye opening to hear their stories and learn more about the dynamics and issues in their countries. It broadened my scope on mine action.

In addition this month I traveled with the Prosthetics and Orthotics team and assisted in delivering prosthetic limbs to UXO survivors. I got to see and learn about the whole process surrounding prosthetic limbs and how they are specially crafted for each individual. It was a humbling experience to meet these victims and hear about their stories. For some, their accidents happened when they were in their mid-twenties and they have been living without one or more limbs for over 40 years! They are great examples of resilience when faced with trials and obstacles in life. It was incredible to hear about their lives after the accident and see how they have continued to press on and still find ways to enjoy life.

Furthermore, I met a woman who lost her husband earlier this year to a UXO accident while he was working on their farm. She is a mother with 3 young children and she must continue to provide for her children while also dealing with the grief and loss of her husband. It’s a tragic story yet it is not an uncommon story here. Coming from a country where we do not have to worry about UXO and mines it is difficult to imagine what it feels like to live with that threat on a daily basis. It is even more difficult to imagine losing a loved one for a reason like this. It is a reminder about the realities that many people face here day in and day out.

I wanted to come here to learn more about the legacies of the war and the impact that it still has on life today. I feel that in this second month I have learned so much about that. It’s something that we don’t even think about at home in Canada and it’s something that’s difficult to understand until you are here and see it for yourself. You can read stories, watch the news and documentaries but nothing can compare to hands on experience. I feel privileged to have had these incredible opportunities to learn and deepen my knowledge on the dynamics and issues in central Vietnam. I know that’s impossible to fully understand everything in three short months but what I have learned in my two months here is more than I could have learned from the comfort of Canada. I look forward to what this last month has in store.

Un millier d’opportunité pour apprendre

November 2, 2015 | Sabrina, Inde, Jeunesse Canada Monde , SPID, Program Assistant

Aujourd’hui marque le début de la fin : dans un mois, jour pour jour, je prendrai l’avion et terminerai ainsi mon aventure en Inde. Comme je terminerai également mon baccalauréat d’ici un an, je sens que je suis arrivée à un point dans ma vie où je me concentre beaucoup sur ma carrière et sur mon apprentissage. Je réfléchis sur les connaissances et sur les compétences qu’il me reste à acquérir pour réaliser mes rêves et mes buts professionnels.

Dans les derniers jours, j’ai donc beaucoup réfléchis sur ce stage, sur les bons moments et surtout, sur les moments les plus difficiles et sur leur impact dans mon développement. En tant qu’assistante de programme chez SPID, j’ai eu la chance d’avoir une liste diversifiée de tâches : élaborer des brochures pour nos différents projets, mettre à jour le site Internet, s’occuper des réseaux sociaux de l’organisme, faire un peu de recherche, enseigner dans les cours d’anglais langue seconde et de préparation au marché du travail, etc. Cependant, je me rends compte que les apprentissages importants liés à ce stage vont au-delà de ce cadre de travail. Ce n’est pas des compétences pratiques que je développe ici, mais plutôt un exercice d’observation, de réflexion et d’apprentissage sur les dynamiques qui m’entourent.

Je suis étudiante en conflits et droits humains parce que c’est manifestement ce qui me passionne. Mais comment peut-on réellement être une activiste pour les droits des hommes si jamais on est sortit de notre confort de privilégiés? Je sais qu’il y a beaucoup de problèmes sociaux, économiques et politiques liés aux droits humains au Canada, mais reste que si je veux être une activiste à l’internationale, je dois comprendre ces enjeux davantage que ce que je lis sur Internet et dans les journaux. Être en Inde me permet donc d’observer et de vivre des inégalités profondément ancrées dans la culture. Des inégalités dans lesquelles s’est installé davantage d’inégalités. Des inégalités si traditionnelles qu’on a à peine commencé à aborder le fait que ce sont des situations d’injustice. Je sais que ce n’est pas le genre d’environnement dont tout le monde rêve, mais pour ma part, je sais que lorsque je suis inconfortable, ça signifie que j’apprends. Et j’ai appris beaucoup.

J’ai appris que les droits humains ne sont ni innés, ni acquis : tu peux être né avec certains droits et le fait de changer de milieu ou d’environnement te les enlève, tout comme tu peux être né sans droit et en acquérir par des changements de situation. En venant en Inde, j’ai « perdu » certains droits, au titre de femme, et au titre d’employée. J’ai vécu des situations que jamais je n’aurais vécu au Canada, mais la bonne nouvelle, c’est que j’apprends à répondre à ce genre de situation, ce que je n’aurai probablement jamais appris dans mon pays. J’ai également « gagné » certains privilèges, en terme de normes de beauté et en terme de nationalité. En tant qu’occidentale blanche, j’ai le privilège de pouvoir voyager dans pratiquement n’importe quel pays et d’être une minorité visible privilégiée – ce que, malheureusement, les gens de couleur peuvent rarement expérimenter.

J’ai appris que de se battre pour ses propres droits est relativement plus difficile que de se battre pour les droits de quelqu’un d’autre. J’ai appris que les abus de pouvoir peuvent passer inaperçus facilement et qu’on les retrouve à tous les niveaux de la société.

J’ai appris à observer avant de juger, à poser des questions avant de juger, à obtenir des réponses avant de juger, à comprendre avant de juger, bref, j’ai appris à ne pas juger, parce qu’il y a toujours plus à l’histoire que notre propre compréhension.

J’ai surtout appris que je n’aurai jamais fini d’apprendre. Mon stage en Inde fait partit de la continuité dans mon apprentissage. Ce pays est grandiose et m’offre un nombre infini d’apprentissage. J’ai appris dans mon organisme d’accueil, dans mes interactions avec les autres, inconnus ou bons amis, j’ai appris à tous les jours et j’ai appris sans même réaliser que j’apprenais. Le stage n’est pas fini, mais je peux déjà définitivement dire que cette expérience est riche dans mon développement et que les dynamiques de l’Inde renferment énormément de beauté malgré les visions pessimistes de ce pays qui sont trop souvent propagées. Je suis fière de dire qu’une petite partie de moi est maintenant indienne, et cette partie est fière de ce pays, parce qu’il est beau, parce qu’il se bat pour ses droits, parce qu’il tente d’émerger dans le XXIe siècle, parce qu’il y a des changements, et parce que ces changements sont rapides.