I have been very fortunate to have scored myself a pretty much free trip to Vietnam recently. Part of the global movement of our EMBA, our marketing lecturer invited all of us to go to Vietnam to do the subject marketing there as an intensive. At first, I really wanted to go but was thinking that I wouldn’t get the leave to go because there was a lot happening at work during that time. However, after some talking and finding out that the schedule allowed me to, I jumped at the opportunity.

I haven’t been back to Vietnam since I was 18.. like 14 years ago, so I really didn’t know what to expect. My friends who have been back recently have said that it was really fun and really awesome.. but there was still that part of me who read all the warnings on those travel safe websites and was still really weary of being mugged, getting food poisoned and getting into trouble.

Nguyen Hue
Nguyen Hue

Did it happen? No, not at all. The first day I set foot in Vietnam, I was blown away. The strict we stayed on was sort of a few streets from the main city centre, Nguyen Hue. So while we were attempting to look for a restaurant to eat – spoiled by the many choices, japanese, italian, western, chinese etc – I had sort of like a deja vu feeling of, “OMG.. I feel like I’m in Vancouver”. The restaurant we ended eating at on the first night was so westernised, I felt like I was in New York. It was so surprising just how much Vietnam had changed.

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One thing that didn’t change was the traffic and driving. LOL. First day on the hotel shuttle from the airport into District 1… there were a few break outs of nervous laughter. I just couldn’t believe people in the middle lane were wanting to turn left.. while we were in the left lane trying to drive straight.. huh?

The majority of our stay was spent at RMIT – or otherwise known as “RIMMIT” – a spectacular building in the middle of a very modernised highway, surrounded by luxury car showrooms, something that was not there 14 years ago. What I loved about the experience was meeting all the cool people that I met and learning cool things from them. It was a diverse mix of people from different backgrounds – from locals, to expats, to locals who’ve studied abroad. Their level of work ethic or their… standards was so much higher than ours though. It did make me think of my own engagement and energy in my approach to work in Australia.

RMIT Vietnam
RMIT Vietnam

We went through a lot of the same things as we did in the classes back in Melbourne, so for me it was a chance to go through revision and then be re-inspired by the same content and focus on how I could apply that to the Marketing plan that I was working on.

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A part from studying, intensively, 8 hours a day from 8.30 to 5.30 each day – we went to a lot of different places to eat. It wasn’t always Vietnamese, but a combination of Asian cuisines that were so much cheaper than eating here – in a way. We pretty much went out each night, had a few drinks, talked about life, economics, business and culture – and then went back to our hotel to sleep a few hours and get back to uni.

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During this whole process – I instagrammed, snap chatted and facebooked the whole journey – one of my friends even made a comment saying that she felt she was there the whole time. lol

Vegetarian Thai food - the restaurant and food was soooo beautiful.
Vegetarian Thai food – the restaurant and food was soooo beautiful.

It was great though. A really good time to take a break and see how much one side of my identity has progressed throughout time. I still remember back then I went to a wedding in Vietnam and we went to the country side, walking on planks of wood over the muddy bank-side to get to the house. I remember EVEN way back, when the toilets on the side of the streets were really smelly and there was always a huge tank of water next to it. I remember EVEN WAY back before that, that a toilet was always on the ground next to those plants that shrivel up when you touch it – we call them “Shy Grass”. lol

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I remember back then when my family was still in Vietnam. I realise now that there is no one there. I mean, technically, there is, but I don’t know whether I would have contact with them.

When having meaningful conversations with some of the friends I’ve met in Vietnam, I’ve realised just how different life is in Vietnam now. It doesn’t feel like a struggle. It doesn’t feel like it’s “hard”, but it just feels normal – it might have been just the people that I’ve met – executives who’ve had more opportunities. But I did feel a sense of I need to be more appreciative of what I have.

I was really inspired but a lot of the people I’ve met – if not inspired, but definitely a trigger to remind me, “Hey Karen, what are you doing?”

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The biggest trigger was my friend, the healthcare consultant. I think what really inspired me was his passion and his grounded-ness; that sense of centredness where you can see that he is really happy with where he is in life. He loves what he does, he loves where he came from, he loves his wife, he loves his family and he loves his kids. He has 4 kids and he runs an empire. What I really loved was when I asked him if his wife worked with him, and he said, “No, I work for her”. It’s the little things that a man does that really shows that he is a man – not just a boy trying to be a man.

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I know who I am, I love who I am and I love what I do.

By the end of the marketing intensive, I caught up with the friends that I met in during the course. Such awesome people – I am really glad that I made friends with them and not just met them. We went to eat at even more cool places, shared some interesting times with them, and I finally got the massage and manicure that I wanted to get for so long. We even went to some older parts of Vietnam, the Vietnam that I actually remember from way back.

district 5

The older Vietnam (District 5) versus the new Vietnam (District 1).

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Then, I also got food poisoned. lol

The inevitable happens, or should I say, if it’s meant to happen, it happens? 😀

All in all, it was fantastic. I’m looking forward to doing it again, maybe somewhere else in the world.

Karen x

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