If you want to learn about different cultures, religions, languages and food, then you need to go abroad! For me, Vietnam was an obvious choice. Asian cultures and religions have always fascinated me and Vietnam was on my list for a long time.
I was looking for a medical project, since I needed to do a graduating nursing internship. When I found Projects Abroad and I read about their Nursing Project in Vietnam, I felt the urge to grab my bag and drive to the airport. I wanted to work on paediatrics and they have a very good connection with the national children’s hospital in Hanoi.
This journey has met and surpassed all of my expectations. Before I arrived, I already felt in love with the country. I stayed there for 10 weeks, but it felt like I arrived just yesterday. Time flew as quickly as light.
Support from Projects Abroad Staff
The Projects Abroad staff take really good care of you. They become like your new mom and dad in Vietnam. They always make sure everything is going well and they help you with all your problems and concerns.
The staff also plan social events so all the volunteers can enjoy their free time. These events are optional to join and you can always ask for something specific and they will do their best to arrange it for you. The events are usually during the week, since they want to give you the space to travel on the weekends. I, for example, went to Sapa, Ninh Binh province, Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island and Ba Be Lake during my weekends. But I also took time to discover Hanoi itself and I am travelling around Vietnam after my project as well.
My Nursing placement
During my placement work, I followed the nurses and tried to integrate myself into the team. It can be very difficult to do this. Depending on the department, they might be very enthusiastic and take you with them or they might be shy. If so, give them time to get comfortable with you.
Their English isn’t always very good, and so it can be hard for them to communicate with you. But it is worth it to be patient, because as soon as they get comfortable with you, they want to learn all about you and your country. It really helps if you try to learn some basic Vietnamese and show that you are interested. It’s a great opportunity to learn from the nurses and ask questions.
I had some challenges during my work, but these were always resolved in the end. I would not have wanted it to be any different. This way, I learnt to push through, to be assertive, and to take initiative. I also learnt a new way of communicating. Verbal communication is sometimes overrated.
I also learnt how to deal with cultural differences and how to adjust to a culture that is different from my own. I got more self-confidence and I learnt how to be creative in very different ways. Projects Abroad also organises a community event every month, which helps you engage with other volunteers.
My volunteer accommodation
I stayed in a volunteer house. During my first two weeks, I was alone in the house, which didn’t really bother me. This way, I had the personal space to adjust to the country and the time zone. At the end of my second week, a new volunteer arrived. It was Tet holiday (Vietnamese New Year) and so we went travelling together.
After Tet holiday, many new volunteers arrived. We all went travelling together and had a lot of fun. I don’t know what it would be like to stay with a host family, but I would have liked to try this as well. Living with a host family, I feel you would have a more authentic Vietnamese experience and make a lot of Vietnamese friends. Although, depending on where your host family lives, it can be more difficult to get in touch with the other volunteers.
I must say this experience has been beyond everything I’d imagined. Not only Vietnam itself, but also the Projects Abroad team took a piece of my heart. Thank you!