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WUSC seminar in Vietnam

NSCC Business Student Erin Manning's blog on her experiences in Vietnam

sunny 32 °C


My name is Erin Manning and I am a student at NSCC, studying Business Administration at the Waterfront Campus, and I am writing to you from Vietnam.

Each summer, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) – UNITERRA International Seminar offers about 20 Canadian postsecondary students an initial experience in a developing country. Under the supervision of internship coordinators, the participants collaborate with about 20 students from the host country on a common research project covering a predetermined development issue. This year fellow NSCC student Erin Delorey and I were fortunate enough to be two of those 20 students – and we are the first College student participants in the Seminar. This year's seminar is being held in Binh Thuan and Tra Vinh provinces of Vietnam. Its focus is on the partnership between colleges and the community.

There are 18 days remaining on this trip. I am very excited for what the future holds. When we landed in Ho Chi Minh, June 15 / 11, we hit the ground running. It has been extremely busy and a lot of hard work but the rewards vastly outweigh the tasks.

Since I have been here we have developed close relationships with our Vietnamese counterparts, their families, the community and our interviewees. We have Celebrated Canada Day; toured rice fields; tried our hand at Khmer dancing; and Vietnamese karaoke. I have even managed to pick up enough Vietnamese language to order a meal. That is quite an accomplishment.

Last week we had the opportunity to visit several local businesses. Perhaps the most notable was the MyLan Group. The facilities had gorgeous landscaped grounds. The inside of the buildings were equally impressive and the working conditions were pristine. The company is one of the most successful in the province and is owned by a Canadian-Vietnamese man who really prides himself on the workplace environment he created. He splits his time between Tra Vinh and Montreal.

During the tour we ran into some very typical Vietnamese situations that often frustrate the Canadian students. As an introduction to the Electrical Engineering department we were told, with some laughter, that only handsome men worked here. When asked if women could work there we were told that this was an area better suited for males.

Many people we have interviewed have said that there is not a lot of gender discrimination here but Canadians are still struggling with this concept. In Canada this type of gender streaming and career expectations would meet our definition of discrimination. We have been told, for example, that now women can go into IT and engineering due to an increased number of office jobs in these areas. Through interviews, I have also learned that women are expected to stay closer to home after graduation more so than their male counterparts. So while this is disconcerting, we keep trying to look at it through the lens of cultural relativism. Could this be a result of women being forced into these roles or is it based on the cultural environment? Is this merely a reflection of the collective choices of all Vietnamese women? It is very difficult to parse these two ideas, but it is interesting to think about and discuss the realities of the Vietnamese experience.

I can state, with certainty, that the Vietnamese people are as warm as their climate. It will be with great sadness that I depart Vietnam. I am forever grateful for being selected for this amazing opportunity to grow. I am truly appreciative of the support from NSCC International’s Kellie McMullin and Dr. Pat Sherlock and numerous other faculty members. Their unwavering enthusiasm for learning and appreciation of the cultural dynamic has served as an intellectual catalyst for me. My one hope is that I have had as much of an impact on the students here as they have on me.

Erin Manning
Business Administration student
NSCC Waterfront Campus

Posted by NSCC Intl 11:53 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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