Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel to another country alone? What would you like to see and do? Would you learn more about the world? Would you learn more about yourself? Chelsia got to do just that- she discovered herself as she discovered the world on her Global Volunteer trip to Vietnam.
Discovering a whole new world
Going to Hanoi on her own gave Chelsia a chance to immerse herself deeply in the Vietnamese way of life. She was exposed to new sights and practices such as motorcycle-filled streets, and crossing the chaotic streets without the aid of conventional traffic controls. “It was thrilling,” she said, to not cross the roads using standard traffic control tools. Although, leaving to Vietnam without her family had also meant that she needed to look out for herself. She heightened her senses to ensure her trip would go smoothly, and avoid any possible mishaps. Through that, however, she grew to be more independent- a big step towards maturity and developing much-needed street-smarts, especially in a foreign land.
Chelsia grew to be more sociable and delighted in interacting with different people from all sorts of backgrounds. She commented, “It was fascinating to hear other people’s stories and their way of life. [Talking to people] help[ed] to broaden my horizons!”. Chelsia got to interact with plenty of other Exchange Participants (EP) from around the world both from and outside of her AIESEC project, and also mingled with foreigners who shared the same room as her in her hostel. Her interactions with various personalities and her keen eye for detail had enriched her life greatly as she learnt about others- as in the case where she noted cultural differences between Westerners, who preferred to wear shoes in their rooms, and Asians, who generally preferred to walk barefooted in their rooms.
Discovering a whole new self.
Over the course of her journey, Chelsia also began to grow a lot more self-assured. She became a lot more assertive as she started to stand by her values and beliefs, even when the majority seemed to have a differing opinion. She had also found her voice and spoke up more as she learnt to not be swayed by peer pressure while she stood her ground.
Aside from learning more about herself, Chelsia realised that while aspiring to change the world may seem like a daunting task, if we try our best and start with small steps, there will always be a trickle-down effect so every step counts. Her project was regarding the topic of ‘Child Abuse’ and one part of it involved informing attendees of her course of the various aspects of child abuse. While in Sapa, she had witnessed the exploitation of young children by adults, who had made them sell their traditional handmade items at very tender ages. The children would approach foreigners with a hopeful smile, but pitch their sales with a robotic-like voice, evoking sympathy in their customers. Her course would inspire attendees to impart their newly-gained knowledge to the general public and effect change about child abuse in Vietnam.
Through exposure to a different country’s culture and lifestyle, Chelsia found herself becoming increasingly globally aware, too. She would witness intriguing sights that was distinctly different from Singapore like 3 to 4 people riding on a single motorcycle, or people tying bulky items such as refrigerators to their motorcycle- a common practice in Vietnam, yet, something you would never see in Singapore. While seemingly dangerous, the locals were able to skilfully manoeuvre their way through congested traffic. This had given her insights into the lifestyles of the Vietnamese people and allowed her to gain an understanding of people from another culture. It was through this understanding that she was better able to respect and communicate with the Vietnamese people she had worked with during her project.
Finally, Chelsia had learnt that even though the world could seem like a big and scary place to be in at times, there would always be kind people to help you through it. Once, she and her friends were caught in the rain at a pagoda. They were far away from a populated area so their taxi was taking a long time to arrive. In the meantime, however, they managed to hitchhike on two strangers’ motorcycles to reach their destinations- their kindness making for an unforgettable experience that was deeply etched into her memory.
Chelsia at a Global Village event where volunteers from different countries showcase their cultures.