Our journey as students of International Relations and Development is one of discovery, awareness, and learning. The University of Westminster gave us the amazing opportunity to expand our knowledge and horizons. The module that mostly allowed us to do so is “Learning in an International Environment”, where we had the chance to first learn about Vietnam, its history, and its struggle to achieve sustainable development, and then later on to visit the country for 2 weeks.
Before the start of the module, I knew little to nothing about Vietnam, however the lectures provided, did the best to prepare us on the reality we would then encounter once in the country. At first the lectures were aimed to improve our general knowledge on the Vietnam. Later on, we also had the opportunity to meet a Vietnamese lecturer, who was amazing in explaining his insight on Vietnam, and ready to answer any questions we had for him. One of the best lectures we had was the one where we as students got to know each other better, this was of great value because it united us as a group, and later helped us in being a support for each other while we were in the country.
When we departed for Vietnam, we were all curious to see if it was up to or expectations and imaginations. I went there with an open mind and ready to embrace the culture, the traditions, the people, and anything that Vietnam had to offer. Upon arrival the students that came to meet us at the airport were so friendly and eager to build a relationship with every single one of us. As soon as we got there the 11-hour flight did nothing to stop me from exploring the surrounding of the accommodation we were staying at. My first impression of the country is that it reminded me of my country of origin, Morocco. The streets were always busy with cars and motorcycles, it seemed like people were always out and about at any time of the day.
Every day in Vietnam was memorable, our two weeks were a mix of days off from the university of Hanoi and days off from it when we could sightsee and explore the places around us. One of the best days in Vietnam was when the national football team won the Asian cup, and everyone was out in the streets celebrating, partying and expressing their happiness with the Vietnamese people. There was so much traffic, and everyone was dancing and shouting football chants in the streets. That night we were Vietnamese too.
Our experience at the University of Hanoi and us integrating with the Vietnamese students was just as memorable. The conversations we had in the classroom were of value to all of us, it was an exchange of perspectives, and preconceptions we had of each other’s countries. Some of the students became true friends and helped us to discover many hidden gems of Hanoi. Our last day with them was sad, and many of us cried when leaving them, as they were truly amazing with us. Some of whom I am still in contact with today.
RAJA TOUIRI, Year 3, BA (Hons) International Relations and Development.