I had my internship in the city of Ho-Chi-Minh in Vietnam. I worked on a project called SELF which focused on improving leadership skills of Vietnamese university students.
This experience was a great new challenge for me. I had many experiences in travelling but this was the first time I traveled alone. I experienced so many diverse cultures from people from various parts of the world and learnt how to work with them. The “cultural shock” I got and how I adapted to it was one of the greatest learning challenges in my life.
The working attitudes of each of these interns and the Vietnamese Organizing Committees (OCs) were different. Sometimes the meetings and discussions became so intense that some OCs started crying. But it was just because everyone wanted the project to be successful. First I had some trouble communicating because the interns and OCs could not understand my accent as well as I could not understand theirs. I had to speak slowly than usual, but at the end everyone understood each other.
My experience in Vietnam was life changing as I was helping others in becoming leaders as well as I was learning from them to become my own leader.
AIESEC is what brought me to here as, if it wasn’t for AIESEC I wouldn’t be able to meet such amazing people and learn from their own experiences as well as make new experiences for me as well.
I had to work as a leader to a group of Vietnamese students and act as a mentor to them as well as help in conducting leadership workshops and presentations. The experiences I shared with them during those sessions and the guidance I provided made a huge impact as they were motivated in activating their leadership skills pursuing their goals at the end of this project.
There were many differences in the culture rather than similarities. Vietnamese people were very friendly and there was a great attention on foreigners. People would talk with me or say Hello. I had to stay with a Vietnamese family for these 6 weeks. So I was really exposed to their culture. Vietnamese people are ‘foodies’ and everywhere there were food stalls. The food was really different from Sri Lankan food and other interns had trouble eating Vietnamese food (eg: Blood pudding, snails, pig fat, dog meat). The traffic in Vietnam is crazy as the road is only filled with scooters and nobody would give space to cross the road. One of the first challenges for me was crossing the roads in Vietnam.
This internship also helped me to discover the ‘traveler’ within me. I traveled a lot with the other interns as well as traveled alone. I went a 900km journey alone in night buses as well as using an inland flight and couch surfed for the first time in my life. I learned to ride a motor cycle for the first time. And my first motor cycle journey was a 400km trip with my German friend to a place called Mekong. I met a lot of different people in this journey and had positive as well as negative experiences. My bike broke down in the middle of nowhere, got lost and had no way of contacting because my phone got soaked in rain water, got cheated by a shop owner who stole my key and forced me to pay a ridiculously high price for a cheap meal. But the good things about Vietnam and the friendly people surpass these negative experiences.
I experienced things in 6 weeks that would take years for some people to experience and each experience was a new learning point for me!
Department of Civil Engineering
Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty of Engineering
University of Moratuwa