Written August 13, 2019
Published November 1, 2019
Written by Arria Hauldin (former volunteer from USA)
Note: Arria Hauldin was a former volunteer with C4C in Rural Bac Giang Province. Her primary service was as a Teach for Change teacher, but she also spent her time conducting research on the experiences of ethnic minority single mothers in Vietnam. This blog was originally posted on Omprakash's EdGE blog (link: https://www.omprakash.org/blog/thank-you-viet-nam). This blog was written at the end of her volunteer period.
My time in Vietnam has been nothing short of transformative and bewildering. Three months have never felt so much longer and shorter all at once! I am very appreciative of the individuals who have helped me throughout the last few months; they have created a warm and welcoming environment and have made me feel important within the organization. I would like to thank my host parents, Ha and Thai, fellow volunteers Yasmin, Cherry, and Steve, along with Coins for Change(C4C) CEO Hong and C4C staff Lua and Jaypee. I would like to take the time out to thank the mothers we have been fortunate to talk to about their experiences as well as the students I have had the honor of teaching. Thank you for welcoming me Vietnam.
Vietnam's national anthem.
I have learned a lot about myself in regards to teaching and time management. I have learned to alter my teaching style based on age and level of proficiency for example. I have learned that teaching English is not as easy as a native English speaker would initially think and we take a lot of the grammatical and structural rules for granted because we are so used to using them. I have also learned that children are incredibly fascinating and hilarious which makes me want to work with more young students in the future. I have learned how to go with the flow and how to adjust my plans on the fly.
I feel more confident about my teaching abilities and hope I will be able to teach in another cultural context in the future. I am less confident about my appearance and how I am externally perceived since being here. I knew it would not be a walk in the park being a Black women in a rural area of Vietnam, but I also did not anticipate some of the reactions I would get which affected how I viewed myself. I do not fit the beauty standards of being slender, light skinned (or bright skinned as it is called here), or Asian. Coupled with some of the negative reactions I had received just for existing, I felt truly out of place wherever I went.
My view of my role in the world has shifted slightly to a more positive outlook. Before I left for Vietnam, I did not think I could do much regarding my ability to change mindsets or viewpoints. I thought I would just teach English and conduct research and that I would occasionally get noticed for being a foreigner, but the reality was very different. In some spaces I think my presence made people genuinely curious and I was able to share a bit of my history and culture with people who were interested in listening. In class, I was able to talk about American and Vietnamese culture as well as teach my students a bit about Jamaican and Caribbean culture. Many of my students and their families have never met a Black American, so I was able to build a cross-cultural connection based on some similarities and differences shared between American culture, Vietnamese culture, and Caribbean culture. I hope when I return to the U.S., I can continue to build connections with the Vietnamese community on campus or in my local community as well as share my experiences with students from a similar background to my own. The first thing I want to do when I get back to the U.S. is take a nice two-day nap, go to Walmart, and then eat a Jamaican Beef Patty!
The ride from Chu Town.