Below is a piece I wrote for an internal newsletter at work. I thought I’d share it on my blog as well! It shares a little snippet of my time in Vietnam. I’ll try to write up another post in the coming weeks. Feel free to leave any comments on the blog for me.
Q: We heard you volunteered at the Ho Chi Minh City College of Economics (HCE). What did you do there?
A: I worked out of the International Relations office at HCE, but worked closely with the Student Support Center and the Student Affairs Office. Over 3.5 weeks, my mandate was to:
i) Develop a high level experience design template and marketing plan for event planning
ii) Gather and present ideas on Alumni Associations, identifying feasible next steps for HCE
iii) Teach conversational English at HCE’s International Exchange Club
iv) Present an interactive workshop on networking and relationship building
I had a dedicated translator and intern who helped coordinate all my meetings and translate all my documents on time – that was a very unique learning experience as well!
Q: What were the highlights of your trip?
A: First and foremost, would definitely be meeting the friends and extended family of my friends. It hit me 1 month before departure that I didn’t have a single direct relationship in Vietnam, so I reached out to my personal network and asked for help. Through these introductions, my itinerary in Vietnam quickly formed itself and I created more friends than I imagined I would! My new Vietnamese friends had shown me a hospitality beyond anything I had experienced before and this unexpected warmth is the greatest memory I bring back with me.
Second, would be my weekend travels, which included: going by motorbike for 45mins to Ky Co Beach (near Quy Nhon), sliding down the sand dunes in Mui Ne, and driving 6 hours playing real-life Frogger on the highway to Phan Thiet to visit my friend’s father’s cousin’s dragon fruit farm. Third, the surprise farewell party the students and the other Canadian volunteer at HCE put together for me. It was extremely touching.
There are so many more to share – feel free to ask me in person!
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of your experience?
A: As you can imagine, 3.5 weeks is a very compressed timeline to meet people from different departments, develop relationships with them, understand key challenges, and create a fine-tuned deliverable – all through a translator!
During a short term IDF placement, your host organization will want to absorb as much knowledge from you as possible. There’s definitely a lot of “scope creep” and it can be difficult to say no when your heart is there to serve and there are a plethora of challenges presented to you. Before you go, determine what your personal purpose for your IDF is. I would recommend setting expectations at the beginning and re-evaluating throughout. There are many people there to help you as well.
The key is to finalize your mandate as early as possible and to balance your schedule between your responsibilities. After that, it’s all about how you allocate your time and manage scope creep. Sounds like consulting!
Q: Why did you choose Vietnam?
A: I’m not going to lie, my first instinct is to say it was for the food! In reality, it was for several reasons: Firstly, my mother had taken me to HCMC before and I had always wanted to return to live as a local rather than as a tourist. Secondly, I know many first generation Vietnamese-Canadian/American families and although Canada is a multicultural country, my curiosity urged me to experience the Vietnamese culture, first-hand, from the homeland. Thirdly, one of my best friends who lives in Singapore is originally from Vietnam and this placement would allow me to meet her (extended) family in person and for us to reunite. A good friend of mine had also gone on an IDF to Hanoi 2 years back and had many good things to say!
Q: For anyone who is interested, what would you recommend they do?
A: Have a read of the information on the websites of non-profit organizations. Check if these organizations align with your personal values. Once you’ve reflected on your goals for the upcoming year, talk to your mentors and fill out the application form. Think about which countries you may be interested in and the types of roles you’d like to fill – they could leverage new skills you’d like to further enhance or build off of your existing skillset. There are opportunities in both the private and public sectors.
International development has always been a big part of who I am and my life story. I am very grateful for Deloitte’s IDF program and my leadership’s support in pursuing my personal goals and values. All the best!