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WUSC, Uniterra and My Mandate in Vietnam
The walk from the cool Hanoi airport into a waiting cab was the first warning. It was 37C with 85% humidity. Hanoi in July is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been here five days now and am slowly getting used to the hot, wet blanket that envelops me as soon as I walk out of my hotel—at 7am.
But before I get into the details of my experience in this amazing city, I should let you know why I’m here.
A short while ago I was selected by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) to go to Vietnam for a nine-month mandate. My role is communications/marketing advisor for the North Thang Long Economic Technical College, also known as BTL. (the college’s name in Vietnamese is Bac Thang Long). I’m part of WUSC’s and the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation’s (CECI) Uniterra Program, which recruits Canadians to work in partnership with local organizations to help reduce poverty and inequality through education. My mandate is part of the Private Economic Development sector and the project is known as Skills Training for Labour Market. WUSC volunteers are in eight colleges throughout the country and roles include gender equity officers, IT, communications and administrative support.
My job is to help improve BTL’s reach within the country and to use marketing and promotional tools to increase enrollment. BTL has three main faculties, engineering/info technology, accounting/finance and tourism/commerce. There are 5,000 students currently enrolled in the 10-year-old college, many are part-time shift workers in the nearby industrial park who hope to improve their skill set and create a better career future for themselves.
My first week in Hanoi has been spent getting in-country training at the downtown WUSC office. Not only have I received background on BTL, but info on Vietnamese culture and even some language lessons. One of the highlights of each day has been lunch, cooked up by one of the very talented local WUSC staff members.
Tips for surviving the heat? Drink lots of water, stay out of the sun, and take naps. I know it won’t last. Apparently it gets down to single digits in the winter. This has been one heck of a trip to pack for!