This July, Scope Global took a group of 17 students from the University of Adelaide to Vietnam on an international development practice study tour.
Beginning in Hanoi, the students took an introductory Vietnamese language class, attended a lecture on Vietnam’s history and politics with Dr Tien Nam at Vietnam National University, and listened to a panel discussion with experts and practitioners from different agencies.
The panel gave the students an unparalleled opportunity to gain insight from those working in the industry. Speakers included Justin Baguley, Counsellor Economic and Development Cooperation at DFAT Vietnam; Pham Anh Tuan, Director of the Department of International Economics Institute of World Economics and Politics; Le Quang Phong, Deputy Director at the Monetary Policy Department at State Bank of Vietnam; Obert Pimhidzai, Economist at the World Bank; and Nguyen Thanh Ha, Director General of the International Cooperation Department (VAAS). Many questions were directed to Justin Baguley, being an Australian living overseas, after the students listened to his journey from student to DFAT Post.
After Hanoi, the students headed outside of the city lights to the Da Bac and Sung villages. A still relatively untouched part of Vietnam and charmed with extraordinary scenery, it is often described as an ‘inland Ha Long’. Here, they visited a 300-year-old ethnic minority community and explored the caverns of Sung Cave.
This rural homestay was a special highlight for the students, as they could see how closely people live with animals, learn how to weave fish nets and play volleyball with some of the local young people. While they were there, a funeral was being held and the village invited the students to attend for a short time as it is a great honour for many people to attend a funeral there.
To travel between two of the homestays, the students trekked four hours through the bamboo forest. Leaving at 7am, they tried to avoid the heat but it was about 28 degrees by the time they started. The terrain began as a dirt road but quickly turned into a small walking track. At times, they had to move branches out of the way or hop along rocks to cross rivers. While it was a physical challenge, it was also a unique chance to see the impact of deforestation with whole mountains having had all trees removed.
To provide an international counterpoint to their experience in Da Bac, the students then visited UNESCO natural wonder Ha Long Bay. They cruised past famous islands, including Hòn Gà Chọi (Fighting Cocks), Hòn Lư Hương (Insence), Hòn Chó Đá (Dog) and Hòn Con Vịt (Duck). They visited Titov Island, having the chance to see panoramic views from the top and go swimming by Titov Beach.
After living the quintessential tourist experience, they flew south to Hue to observe a project that has been set up to replant the mangrove to protect the coastline, which is occupied by farmlands and family tombs. This land is of great significance to the local community as it is where their livelihoods come from.
In Hue, the students also went to a microfinance project site run by Hearts for Hue, a local non-governmental organisation working to improve the quality of life for Hue’s boat resettled people in the areas of health, education, sanitation, environment and hygiene awareness.
The final days of the trip were absolutely jam-packed with a Mekong Delta day trip, a seminar with a program manager at World Wildlife Fund Vietnam and a visit to Save the Children.
The Mekong River is environmentally, economically, culturally and politically very important. The waters are an important source of food and employment for millions of Vietnamese. This is threatened by the prospect of upstream hydroelectric development, pollution and climate change.
Speaking with those who work in the development sector is a particularly important and impactful part of the study tour as it gives students ideas on how their careers could look beyond university.
Feedback from participants:
“The trip was presented and conducted with a high level of professionalism and well thought out.”
“It was stimulating, exciting, fun and exhausting!”
“The trip can be considered an example of extending oneself and getting out of a certain ‘academic comfort zone’ and has definitely contributed to my understanding of ‘development’.”
Interested in learning more about our student mobility programs? Read on about what Scope Global can do for your organisation: http://www.scopeglobal.com/programs&capabilities/student-mobility/