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.

Sur la terre de la Téranga

July 22, 2019 | Guillaume, Développement international et mondialisation, Uniterra,Fédération des Producteurs maraîchers de la zone des Niayes (FPMN) - Conseiller en mise en marché de produits agricoles

Depuis toujours, je rêvais de visiter de nouveaux pays et découvrir de nouvelles cultures. J’ai décidé de partir à l’aventure sur la Terre de la Téranga pour enrichir mes connaissances. Les théories enseignées dans les salles de classe sont souvent distantes de la pratique. C’est pourquoi je me disais qu’il serait important de vivre une expérience à l’étranger dans un pays ‘’appauvri’’ ou j’aurais l’occasion de renforcer mes habiletés sociales et mon éthique professionnelle.

Deux mois se sont écoulés sous mes yeux. Après mon arrivée à Dakar, j’étais émerveillé par le nouvel environnement, la conduite tout à fait différente et la fameuse hospitalité sénégalaise. Au bout de quelques moments d’adaptation au mode de vie, j’ai découvert que le Sénégal me réservait de grands secrets.

Au cours de ce stage au sein de la Fédération des Producteurs maraîchers de la zone des Niayes (FPMN), j’ai pu mener des visites sur le terrain pour approfondir ma compréhension des défis auxquels les producteurs-trices sont confrontés. Ce fut un véritable plaisir de pouvoir voyager dans la région des Niayes et de pouvoir échanger avec différents producteurs. À la suite de cette enquête, j’ai pu concevoir une formation qui traitait des techniques de stockage et conservation des produits agricoles. Essentiellement, il s’agit d’un atelier de sensibilisation ou l’on misait sur l’importance de bonnes pratiques de stockage et conservation et tenter de les intégrer dans leurs entreprises. La prochaine étape sera d’organiser une formation qui portera sur deux thématiques, dont la labellisation/certification ainsi que la mise en marché des produits agricoles. Ce sera un défi considérant que le temps s’écoule rapidement. Il ne me reste plus que deux semaines avant la fin de cette belle aventure.

En plus du travail que j’ai effectué avec mon organisme d’accueil, j’ai participé à la vie sociale. J’y participe principalement à la cuisson du repas. J’ai aidé les jeunes producteurs membres de la FPMN à préparer le fameux ‘’thieboudjeun’’. Une fois le repas était prêt, nous étions tous assis en cercle à l’extérieur réuni autour d’un seul plat. Chacun avait sa portion délimitée par des lignes imaginaires. Il ne faut pas surtout pas s’inquiéter de de manquer de nourriture comme mes collègues remplissaient ma partie constamment. C’est à ce moment où j’utilisais l’expression en wolof ‘’lekk naa bu baax’’ ce qui signifie que j’ai bien mangé pour me retirer de table. En effet, cela m’a facilité mon intégration et m’a permis de socialiser tout en agrandissant mon réseau.

Les souvenirs qui resteront le plus vivement gravés dans ma mémoire sont les moments que j’ai eu la chance de partager et les relations que j’ai eu le bonheur de nouer. Ces amitiés, j’ai eu l’opportunité de les avoir parmi mes collègues de travail comme à l’extérieur. Ce sera un grand changement de ne plus les voir du tout.

Ce stage m’a permis de grandir autant sur le plan personnel que professionnel au travers des diverses expériences que j’ai pu réaliser lors du stage. Ce stage nous expose à des situations difficiles, à des zones d’inconfort, nous confrontent dans nos valeurs, remet en question nos principes et permet de confirmer certaines facettes de notre personnalité. Ce n’est pas le genre de voyage qui plait à tout le monde, mais assurément, c’est le genre de voyage qui permet à tout le monde de découvrir une partie d’eux-mêmes qu’ils n’auraient peut-être jamais explorée. Même si mon parcours ne fut pas sans difficulté, j’en garderai un très bon souvenir de même que de nouvelles compétences et expériences.

Pour conclure, je recommanderais ce stage à tous les gens qui veulent développer leur capacité d’adaptation, s’ouvrir sur le monde, développer des relations authentiques. Jamais je n’aurais imaginé autant m’attacher aux gens et à la culture sénégalaise.

Five days left in Ghana…

July 22, 2019 | Alexandra, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization, AFS Ghana, Legal Resource Center, Project Support Officer

I have 5 days left in Ghana and I cannot believe just how fast the time has come and gone. With just under a week left at my placement in Accra, I am left to reflect on the friends, family and the new experiences that I have come to know as reality during my stay. I’ve lived with a host family for 3 months now and I cannot express how worthwhile the entirety of the experience has been. After living independently for my entire undergraduate degree, I was initially apprehensive upon discovering I would be living with a host family. However, as I come to the end of my time in Accra, I struggle to imagine spending the coming days without them. My host parents are so warm and welcoming. My host brother and sisters have kept me entertained for weeks on end and I await the phone calls I’ll receive from them as soon as I return to Canada. The hardest part about this internship will be saying goodbye to the people I have come to know and love. I am truly dreading Saturday morning, when I will have to pack up my suitcase, head to the airport, and leave behind this new life.

Ghanaian people are so warm-hearted. People say Canadians are nice but I think the Ghanaians have us beat. I’ve met so many people that I know I will keep in contact with in the years to come and I’m more than excited than ever to see how those relationships will grow. In my office, at the Legal Resources Centre, I have met a handful of both local and international interns that I spend most of my free time with. I’ve made connections, both personal and professional, that will be of utmost value upon my return to Canada.

While I will surely miss the people, I know that I will also miss travelling around the country. My favourite places are Cape Coast and Kokrobite, both of which are coastal cities with beautiful beaches. As you can guess, I love spending my free time at the beaches and I’ve had the pleasure of taking some of the most breathtaking photos while visiting them. I’ve also been high above the ground, amongst the trees at Kakum National Park. The canopy walk is amazing. You walk on these wooden rope bridges from tree to tree, over 400ft above sea level. Ghana is also home to many botanical gardens, namely in Aburi and in East Legon. I can’t seem to shake the sense of awe and wonder that takes over my mind when I get the chance to travel across the country. The landscape is beautiful, no matter which direction you decide to travel. I’ve already begun to plan my return trip so that I can travel to the more remote locations that I was unable to visit during my stay.

I’ve fallen in love with the chaotic nature of everyday life in the country’s capital. At first, the incessant noise of car horns honking and the sea of merchants selling their goods along the roadside was intimidating. Now, I welcome these familiar sights and sounds with open arms. I know that when I return to Canada, I am surely going to miss the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city. That’s not to say that this trip has gone without issue. Rather, I’ve had many a moment when I thought I couldn’t last one more day, let alone three months. Despite these hardships, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Travelling abroad is such a worthwhile experience and it cannot be explained, only experienced. I look forward to seeing what the future holds, whether I am able to travel back to Ghana or elsewhere. Regardless, I am more than thankful for the opportunity to travel abroad with the university and I will never forget everything I’ve learnt.

Adjusted to a Life here

July 22, 2019 | Joyce, International Development and Globalization(Co-op)(French Immersion)and Minor in Political Science, AFS Canada, Ghana, Human Rights Advocacy Centre

I think the moment that it hit me that I was comfortable with my life here in Ghana was when I fell asleep in the tro-tro coming home from a weekend trip a couple of weeks ago. I had past the 1.5 month mark of the internship and had planned a trip with a cohort to Kokorbite Beach. We took the trotro and loading taxis (these are taxis you share with random other people who are all going the same way as you, in order to pay less) all the way there and back and I knew exactly which trotros to take, which stops to get off at, and was so tired on the ride home that I felt comfortable and safe enough to fall asleep. In the past, I use to get a little nervous every time I entered a trotro, afraid that I would get off at the wrong place, I wouldn’t be let off at the right place, I wouldn’t receive the correct change (or any change at all); but now, I feel safe when I am in a tro-tro – I am comfortable.

I’m used to the way that people interact with each other here, the do’s and don’ts of eating etiquette as well as the polite greetings to use when speaking with people in society. It’s been pretty crazy to see how comfortable with my life and schedule that I have here.

As well, my relationship with my brothers of my host family are very familial. There have been situations where I have gotten annoyed at one of my brothers or he has gotten annoyed at me but then a couple minutes later, we’re back to our normal interactions; as if nothing had ever happened. We don’t hold grudges nor is it awkward to tell each other when we’re annoyed with each other. I really enjoy the familiarity and closeness that I have with my host brothers. I hang out with them often and I will miss their company when I am back in Canada.

I have also gotten use to the friendships I have made in the workplace. I have gotten close to certain colleagues, as well as other people that I have volunteered with. I will miss the people that I have created relationships here; it’s crazy that within 3 months, I have received and created a community for myself here in Ghana. I have family and friends that I will dearly miss and aim to come visit in the future. It has been an honour and privilege to learn from my friends and colleagues on their thoughts on development and the issues that they recognize within the governance of their country. This type of learning is not something I would have been able to learn from academia or from any classroom.

This internship has offered not just the opportunity for me to learn about international studies at a grassroots level, but from a group of people themselves; I have been able to further expand my education through learning about a culture while living in it, directly from Ghanaians themselves. In addition, it has also allowed me to create long-lasting connections - I will thoroughly miss my friends and family here and I cannot wait to come back to visit them.

Time is going by too quickly!

July 22, 2019 | Mashal, Honours in Political Science, Mines Action Canada,Trinidad and Tobago, Women's Institute for Alternative Development - WINAD, Disarmament Program Support Officer

It has been about 5 weeks since I started to work with WINAD as a “disarmament program support officer”. I arrived to the country 6 weeks ago, and I am still letting its beauty sink in. Trinidad is a warm, colorful and vibrant country, both in its outward dimension and in terms of its people. Immediately upon landing, one notices breath-taking mountain-ranges which follow you no matter where you go. These are one of my favorite features of the country, and I am very happy that they are visible from the windows of my apartment, which is located in a small residential area.

During the little time I have spent here, I am amazed by the hospitality and kindness of my neighbors. Despite not knowing me very well, they are always keen to help me and to offer me guidance. I find this propensity extending beyond my little community as well; in the country at large, there are many progressive movements that aim to improve the lives of fellow Trinidadians. I have had the privilege of witnessing a few of these firsthand, including a campaign to expand the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act legislation.

My organization is included in these movements too. Even though it is only run by a handful of women, WINAD has undertaken projects that aim to resolve a number of issues ranging from gun violence, to radicalism and the refugee crisis. Trinidad is a diverse country with diverse problems, many of which stem from its oppressive colonial history. It is, however, one thing to simply read about the sociopolitical issues that affect the country from the safety of my home in Canada, and another thing to experience it first hand by being awoken by the sound of distant gunshots at night. This really drives home the point that the work that organizations like WINAD do have real life implications.

I am awe-inspired by the attitudes of my coworkers. Even as they tackle these deep-rooted complex issues, they have conviction that change will occur. In a time where cynicism seems to be the rule rather than the exception–especially in the sphere of politics– such attitudes are deeply inspiring. It has awakened in me a desire to enact change in my own homeland. Although I still have a little over a month left in Trinidad, I already find myself ‘missing’ the country. Time is going by too quickly! I have already taken away so much from this experience, and I am excited to see what my remaining weeks here will teach me.

Anna of Arabia – My Desert Experience

July 22, 2019 | Anna, International Studies and Modern Languages(French Immersion), Forum des Fédérations, Maroc,

In my time in Morocco I have been fortunate enough to travel and explore the country. One of my most memorable trips was to Zagora Desert which is on the edge of the Sahara. It is located around 700 km from Rabat the capital where I work and so I spent the majority of the weekend travelling.

Two friends and I traveled to Marrakech by train which took about 4 hours. In Marrakech, we joined an organized tour group called Marrakech Desert Trips who basically took care of everything for us. Our tour group consisted of 3 Greek men in their 40s, a Japanese man, a quiet American woman and us. We left Marrakesh at 8:30am and Jamal our driver began to drive through the Atlas Mountains. The Atlas Mountains are a mountain range which stretches an estimated 2,500 km through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and separating the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines from the Sahara Desert. The mountain roads were very crazy and often times we were driving with only a small barrier between us and the bottom of the mountain. Jamal drove with ease and an air of calm which helped me to relax and enjoy the trip.

At lunch, we stopped at Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou a UNESCO world heritage site located in Ouarzazate province and is described as “a perfect synthesis of earthen architecture of the pre-Saharan regions of Morocco”. The historical site is featured in many movies and TV shows such as Game of Thrones which I thought was super cool.

After our lunch of lemon tagine chicken, we got back in our van and drove to Zagora. When we arrived just before sunset, we were put on camels and led to the desert camp. The camel ride was about an hour long and while I enjoyed every minute of it, the reality is that camels are very uncomfortable. Camels are not a smooth ride and you sway a lot when you are on them and therefore, it is difficult to keep your balance. There are also different types of camels, the ones with one hump which are the ones used in Morocco are called Dromedary camels. Dromedaries are native to Northern Africa and aren’t found in the wild anymore since they have been domesticated after hundreds of years of use by nomads.

After arriving at our desert camp, we settled in and had tea on the dunes with our guide Youssef who led us by camel through the desert. Moroccans love very bitter mint tea with lots of sugar and to cool the tea and make a foamy top they will pour it into the cups and back into the pot several times. At around 10 pm, we were served a dinner of chicken tagine chicken and watermelon which was delicious. Then at around 11:30, the guides made a campfire, got out their drums and began to sing. They sang in their native tongue Berber while we watched in fascination. Youssef and the other guides are Berbers or Amazighs (which is what they prefer to be called) meaning free people. They are an ethnic group of several indigenous peoples of North Africa who predate the Arab invasion. The Amazighs do not have their own country because when colonizers divided Africa, they created borders straight through their lands meaning that the majority of the estimated 30 million Amazigh are divided across North Africa.

We went to bed in our tent at midnight knowing that we had to be up for our 6:30 am breakfast. As you probably know the desert is really hot! During the day it was +45 degrees and at night, it was a cool 30. It was an absolutely brutal night because I had to keep drinking water (which was so hot it could have been tea) to stay hydrated and because I continued to sweat more than I ever have in my life despite not moving. The desert is an eerie place especially at night because there is no sound. It is not a peaceful silence like you get camping in Canada because there is no rustling of trees, birds or any other sound. It’s like a void. Any sound you make seems to travel so even whispering sounds loud. It was also a full moon so the entire desert was illuminated, and you could see everything meaning that one didn’t need a flashlight to travel between tents. It was like a huge blinding streetlamp. Understandably, I didn’t sleep very well and maybe got 3 hours of sleep.

In the morning, we had a small breakfast of toast and tea before taking some last photos and getting back on our camels. After a short 30-minute ride we got back into our van with our tour group and began the long drive to Marrakech. During our trip back to Marrakech we stopped at Ouarzazate nicknamed the door of the desert chiefly inhabited by Amazighs it is the site of many Kasbahs for which the area is known.
I finally made it back to my apartment at 11pm feeling gross from all the sweat, sunscreen, and sand but also incredibly happy to have seen and experienced something so incredible.

Welcome to Hanoi!

July 19, 2019 | Genevieve, International Development and Globalization, Vietnam, Uniterra, Hanoi Open University (HOU) - Youth Engagement Officer

My three weeks in Hanoi had been wonderful, a constant mix of calm and chaos. At first glance, everything seems out of control; the traffic, the mismatched buildings, the old and new side by side. It is a unique kind of beauty that can only exist in a place like Vietnam. The long and complicated mix of various colonial influences is apparent: French style apartment buildings stand right beside Chinese style temples. The traffic, a constant stream of motorbikes driven by “Sun Ninjas”; women covered head to toe in special suits, no matter what the temperature, blaring their horns and weaving in and out of cars. Anything can be carried on a motorbike, from fish tanks to couches to newborn babies. Chaos. But, it all just works. After you get used to it, it is easy to spot the quiet moments. The young couple taking selfies on a park bench, the elderly bicycle lady singing songs as she pedals through narrow alleyways and shop owners napping on the floor of their stores to relieve themselves from the unique heat of Hanoi afternoons. These little moments of peace and beauty make it all worth it.

I have fallen in love with my studio apartment and the traditional vibe of my neighbourhood. I have befriended the children of a local fruit vendor whose stall sits just outside of my apartment building. The children have an insatiable fascination with my curly hair and eye colour. They always run to meet me and offer hugs in the morning before I leave for work. Usually, while I am busy playing with the children, their father has taken to snatching my phone out of my hands and shouting instructions at the confused grab drivers (Vietnam’s equivalent to Uber – but on a motorbike) on where to find me. It amazes me that despite a total language barrier, I look forward to seeing their smiling faces everyday.

The other WUSC volunteers in Hanoi have been amazing. We have already developed a close relationship, and being able to share our experiences with one another has made adjusting incredibly easy.

One of the biggest struggles that I have faced so far is the perception Vietnamese people have of white Westerners. People will stop me to take my picture, or more often, just snap one of me without asking. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. Maybe I am being dramatic, but the idea that photos of me just exist in the world without my knowledge is unsettling. With that comes constant stares and unwanted attention, particularly from Vietnamese men. I can’t walk down my street without being jeered at by men lounging at the Bia Hoi’s that are scattered throughout the alley. I have been reassured that it is all-harmless, but I can’t help but feel irritated. The influence of colonization is still so apparent. Vietnamese women go to extreme lengths to maintain white skin. Billboard ads are heavily (and obviously) photoshopped and the grocery store aisle are lined with products that promise to lighten and whiten your complexion.

My work as a Youth Engagement Advisor has been incredibly rewarding. I am lucky enough to get to work directly with 18-20 year old Tourism students. Not only have I been blessed with a wealth of knowledge on all of Hanoi hot spots, but I have also been welcomed with open arms and they feel more like friends than recipients of my mandate. I look forward to getting to know these students better, and finding out how I can serve Hanoi Open University and its students to the best of my abilities.

Life in Vietnam

July 19, 2019 | Laura, International Studies and Modern Languages, Uniterra, Vietnam, Vietnam Association of Community Colleges (VACC)- Program Officer

I have been in Vietnam for five weeks now, four spent in Hanoi and one in Pleiku and I think they may be the longest and shortest five weeks of my life. Living here has been a big exercise in adapting. Every new experience comes with a set of challenges and the need to be flexible. But, despite all the challenges these have been the most amazing weeks of my life.

Hanoi is a beautiful city with so much to do. In my first week I had trouble adjusting to the fast pace of the city, but I quickly got used to it and now, living in a more remote area, I really miss feeling at the center of everything. My favourite place in Hanoi is the Old Quarter, where we spent our first few days in a hotel. Every weekend they close off the streets around Hoan Kiem lake and have events and activities. I have loved walking around the lake, grabbing coffee, and watching the traffic.

Living in Vietnam has not come without challenges of course. The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome has been the language barrier. At my organization there is only one person that speaks English fluently, so miscommunication is a common occurrence. I am also getting used to casually being pushed out of my comfort zone with every new experience pushing me a little further. While this causes me a little stress and is not something I always enjoy, I do appreciate it because it has given me amazing experiences that I might not have tried otherwise.

I am also really proud of the work I’ve completed at the VACC. The past few weeks I have been working with my counterpart on a grant proposal for a conference dedicated to helping women and girls to become entrepreneurs. The workshop focuses on all aspects of business administration and submitting the proposal has been one of my proudest moments of my internship yet. I also help with the English club and have loved working with all of the students to improve their language skills.

I am also coming to the end of two weeks in Gia Lai province which has been a bit of a challenge but also an amazing experience. While here I taught English lessons to the teachers of the college. It was amazing to have such an attentive group of people that just wanted to learn. I felt very proud of the students in the last class because of how far they’d come.

In my first weeks coming to Vietnam I would count down how long I had left to be here whenever I was struggling to adjust, now I never want it to end. I have had such an amazing summer so far and I am excited to see what the next six weeks has to offer.

Adjusting to Life in Hanoi Vietnam

July 19, 2019 | Darian, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Uniterra, Vietnam, Bac Thang Long Economic Technical College (BTL) - Employability Skills Development Officer

If I could sum up my experience in Vietnam so far in one word it would have to be life-changing. The country is absolutely incredible from its beautiful tropical landscapes, to its rich cultural traditions and contentious colonial history.

Hanoi, the city I have been living in, is the capital of Vietnam and the second largest city in the nation with a population of almost eight million people in a condescended area. Most of my time is spent in three main districts including Cau Giay (a district in the suburbs of Hanoi where I am currently living with a local Vietnamese host family), Old Quarter (the best place for traditional food and drinks), and Ba Dinh (where my work is located and the most famous cultural heritage sites of Hanoi). Overall, I had experienced a major adjustment period getting acclimatized to a totally different way of life in Vietnam. All of the social norms and cultural rules I learned growing up in Canada have been pretty much thrown out the door as I began to adapt to Vietnamese living.

Funny enough one of the biggest challenges was learning how to properly cross the street and overcome the fear of getting hit. In Hanoi there are practically no traffic laws. I was shocked to learn that cars will not stop for you crossing the street, there are almost no traffic lights and that it is normal for vehicles to drive on the sidewalks. As a result I was forced to weave my way through the extremely busy streets with cars and bikes driving at different speeds. Even when I was coming home from work one day a motor bike nearly collided with me on the sidewalk hitting my gym bag that I had on my side over my shoulder.

The language barrier and unrealistic work expectations have also been quite the challenges to overcome. Most of the people at our local partners did not really speak much English and the school that I am teaching at did not even know I would be working there until the day before I arrived in Hanoi. There was a lot of miscommunication once I started working as well since the school thought we were fully certified English teachers and wanted us to teach fourteen different English classes a week. However, after multiple meetings with Uniterra representatives and my local partner we were able to make it clear that work expectations were unreasonably high and that my role was to be a facilitator to help college students improve their soft skills for employability and not to be a full time English grammar teacher. Since the first couple weeks which were a difficult transition period, I have gotten comfortable with my new life in Hanoi and cannot wait to see what else Vietnam has to offer!

Babati, Tanzania

June 18, 2019 | Valérie, Développement international et mondialisation, Tanzanie, Uniterra, Friends in Development (FIDE) - Communications and Documentation Officer

It now has been a little over 6 weeks since I arrived in Tanzania and 5 weeks since I started working as a Communication and Documentation Officer with Friends in Development (FIDE) in Babati. In a few words, FIDE is a local NGO using local expertise to lead community-based rural development projects in different regions in Tanzania in order to achieve a poverty-free, equitable and environmentally sustainable society. It works in various fields, such as agriculture, health, education and water supply, partners regularly with local, national and international organizations to help implement its projects.

Living in a very small town has had its pros and cons. On one hand, most people here only speak Swahili and the diversity of restaurants and shops is very limited as is the number of foreigners here. On the other hand, I get to interact with the same people every day, practice Swahili and eat more local food than I would if I were living in a bigger city like the majority of volunteers are. Altogether, this has made my integration into my host country easier and I feel as though I am experiencing the local culture more than I would have thought.

Having the opportunity to put to practice what I have learned in class for the past 3 years is truly rewarding. As I am currently developing a gender equality policy for my organization, I was grateful for the “Women, Gender and Development” course I took during the fall semester of 2018 as it provided me with knowledge about theoretical and practical approaches to women in development and issues women face in Southern countries to use for the aforementioned policy. Though, reading back on my class notes from different DVM courses made me realize how applying the theories we learn in class is not as realistic as it might seem. In the case of women’s empowerment, I have found that most theories fail to address the core of gender inequality which is in the private sphere and is engraved deeply in cultural norms and traditions. As pessimistic this might seem, it is the reality I am faced with. I am, though, finding smaller but still meaningful ways of supporting excluded groups (women, youth and indigenous) through everyday actions, whether it is buying from them at the market or giving them a forum by interviewing them on their past and current living situation.