An immersive experience

In the beginning, I did not know much about Vietnam; I saw it as a developing socialist country with a lot of potential to grow, rich in history, beautiful geography, and landscapes.

Since my course at the university is Criminology, I was particularly interested in learning more about their criminal justice system. Before going to Vietnam, I realised that crime statistics showed high levels in Vietnam, especially in human trafficking. Later, thanks to the lectures, I learned about the leader of the Vietnamese revolution, Ho Chi Minh, the Doi Moi or restoration, the economic changes, and the expansion of education.

 When we arrived in Vietnam, we had the opportunity to visit many different places, including Hỏa Lò prison, where we learned about the treatment of French colonies in Indochina and how later it became a prison for American soldiers but was primarily known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Once in Hanoi, I arrived with the idea of seeing child labour, but I did not see children working on the street; I did see some youth working in small shops, but not children. This perception applies only to Hanoi since I haven’t seen other rural areas of the country or gone to the south, and having conversations with other students they said there are some places where you can find children working, but it is rare. Soon the opportunity to have lectures with Vietnamese teachers and students from international relations arrived, where we learned more about its economy and architecture; we talked about Human Trafficking and the reasons why it is high, in most cases because families need the money. They are sold to the idea of western opportunities to help their families and end up trapped in modern slavery. The Professor from Hanoi university mentioned the case of the 39 Vietnamese found dead in Essex, which raised awareness and opened up investigations of trafficking routes in the UK.

We learned about their educational system, which is very strict; they start their studies at 7 am and are usually done by 5 pm; they also study on Saturday, and there is a lot of competition.

When we were walking on the street, many Vietnamese youths came up to join us and practice their English, which was very sweet and showed how friendly they were. In addition, the university ambassadors (students from Hanoi University), who were so kind to help us, showed us around but, more importantly, became our dear friends.

We also visited so many other interesting places, such as the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and the temple of literature. The history that these places provided was incredible.

But, what made this trip so special and unique for me was the people I travelled with; I had so much fun with them and loved them for who they are and who they can become. I learned about their courses, dreams, aspirations, and their stories. I admire them so much; they have awakened my desire to keep trying and do my best to contribute to our Westminster community.

All of us were from so many different places, very diverse, and this was so important because we live in a global world full of human interaction. So communication, learning and being in touch with other cultures help us to develop social skills, listen, exchange ideas, grow in understanding, and work in a global environment; it teaches us how to connect and grow together as a society.

This module has a special place in my heart: the opportunity to learn and to travel to a place we studied. I learnt about a different country with an open mind. I expanded my knowledge of Vietnam’s society, tradition, and culture and applied them to my course, BA Criminology.

These are things that I wouldn’t have learned first-hand on my own; this module has been a door to new opportunities; it has made my second year at university memorable, my favourite one. I have found my purpose to keep going and learning something new.

If you can join this module, do it, you won’t regret it. Instead, your heart and vision will grow because that is what happened to mine; it’s a lifetime opportunity where you will find lifetime friends and life lessons.

Claudia Lindo

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