‘Global Vietnam’ gave 22 students the opportunity to complete a new, DFAT-sponsored immersion course in Northern Vietnam. Travelling to Hanoi and Mai Chao, we studied and investigated the concepts of gender, labour and migration in urban and rural contemporary settings. Course convenor CASS’ Dr. Leslie Barnes presented students with a challenge – how do we accurately and comprehensively study the above issues whilst facing a plethora of dichotomies in a foreign nation?

‘Global Vietnam’ gave us the opportunity to critically learn about gender, labour and migration issues in Vietnam. Beginning with history of these concepts in this ever-diverse nation, we investigated the following topics: women and work in contemporary Vietnam; masculinity, femininity and LGBTIQ Vietnam; the service and garment industries; trafficking and marriage migration; tourism, heritage and development; gender and labor in art; and the electronics industry. It is abundantly clear that the issues of gender, labor and migration increasing intersect with other aspects of Vietnamese life and culture. From visiting a chopstick factory to simply observing street vendors, it is obvious to us on the course that women play a multitude of key roles. These jobs have little opportunity for promotion and advancement, and often concentrate more on agriculture and the informal sector. Women are frequently observed to be selling their wares, food produce and other smaller items on the street or in front of their homes.  This is in addition to maintaining family unity and fulfilling the ingrained ‘traditional duties’ of a wife. Without this course, I personally would not have been able to look in-depth at any of these issues in my degree (with my current lack of electives). In addition to the academic course content, we were able to learn some ‘survival’ Vietnamese in order to somewhat engage with locals and try to learn more from a personal perspective.

‘Global Vietnam’ gave us unique experiences including learning from and supporting various NGO’s. This included Blue Dragon- a network that brings Vietnamese youth out of labour and sexual trafficking; and KOTO – where we participated in a hospitality course, and who provides under privileged youth culinary qualifications. We also heard from leading experts based in Vietnam- Khuat Thu Hong from the Institute of Development Studies, Yen Ha, Monash University, Sophie Hughs, Founder of Sophie’s Art Tours, and Dana McNairn, Founder of the Gender and Development Working Group in Vietnam. All of these incredible presenters opened our eyes to the deeply engrained struggles of gender, labor and migration in the Indo-Pacific and in Vietnam in particular.

‘Global Vietnam’ gave us a new and exiting passion for the world around us.

This is what DFAT’s New Colombo Plan is all about – giving young Australian university students the chance to flourish and thrive in the dynamic Indo-Pacific region. Not only does it provide financial sponsorship, but also its network of NCP alumni encourages students to have a life-long passion for the diverse countries in the region.  By educating students about the importance of supporting our multicultural, multi faceted global community, both DFAT and ANU foster passion.

‘Global Vietnam’ gave me an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And if you yourself have the chance to participate in this course, or any other global program- take the chance with both hands and live your best life. Have fun!