My reflection on Vietnamese Politics and Society

The recent DEN field trip to Vietnam is easily one of the most unique experiences I have had in my time as a student at Westminster. After over 10 weeks of virtual field trips and having had multiple opportunities to talk to fellow students from Hanoi University, I managed to grasp a greater understanding of Vietnamese culture, economics, politics, society and geography. However, this all paled in comparison to the knowledge, interactions and experiences I had on this week-long trip.

Before joining the virtual field trip, my knowledge of Vietnam was limited purely to its geography and Cold War conflicts. Even then, my understanding was only at a basic level acquired from Cold War texts I had been reading for my upcoming Politics and International relations dissertation. It was only after actually visiting the nation myself and finally coming face-to-face with students and staff I had met online that I gained valuable insights into Vietnamese life.

One of the most striking aspects of the trip was the surprising difference that talking to the local people and students had on my understanding of national politics. Unlike in the west, where the priority is generally on individualism and political freedoms/activism, in Vietnam, a vast amount of people are generally indifferent to politics. It’s not that they have no interest, but that they do not believe there is any need to be interested. In the past 45 years, Vietnamese citizens have seen massive and rapid improvements in their quality of life, and so, to many, as long as the leadership (the Communist Party of Vietnam) continues to facilitate this growth and development, there is little to no reason to be involved.

As a Politics and IR student, my focus for the trip had always been on Vietnamese politics, economics and international relations, and because of that, I found the two most interesting aspects of the trip to be the visit to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and the UN headquarters in Hanoi. While the mausoleum granted me a greater understanding of the reputation and esteem in which the nation holds the Communist Party, the UN visit taught me the most. Learning first-hand about the role that the UNDP holds in helping Vietnam and its surrounding developing nations establish sustainable and environmentally protective growth through initiatives such as the circular economy was an invaluable experience and has only served to further my interest in finding work with IGOs in the future. 

While it is a shame to have to say goodbye to this chapter in my studies (and, of course, to our new friends in Vietnam) I have gained a new and clear insight into the politics, society and lives of the citizens of Vietnam and hope to use this knowledge to further my future studies and career.

Lucas Lacuzzi, Year 2, BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations.

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