Through the prestigious Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) and the HWS Center for Global Education, Lauren Workman ’18 is studying abroad in Vietnam, where she is writing a blog about immersing herself in the lively Vietnamese culture. Workman chronicles her experience interning with an environmental non-profit and learning a new instrument, while taking in the sights and history of the landscape around her.
“I am learning more about myself and my role in the world through talking with people, exploring on my own and learning as much as I can day to day,” says Workman. “I enjoy walking through the streets and finding new cafes, alleyways and street food.”
The HWS Vietnam program gives students the opportunity to study and travel through multiple cities. During their first month in Ho Chi Minh City, students study the Vietnamese language as well as political science through a course titled “Vietnam Transformed” with Senior Lecturer at Union College Tom Lobe. Students then travel through the central region of Vietnam with stops in My Lai, My Son, Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue, before arriving in Hanoi for the remainder of the semester. There, students intern at local schools, non-profits agencies or local organizations.
Workman, an environmental studies and cultural anthropology major, is interning with the non-profit Green Innovation and Development (ID). Dedicated to promoting sustainable development and renewable energies, their “Just Transition” campaign focuses on educating people in the Mekong region about the socio-environmental impacts of coal plants. Her responsibilities for the organization include photography, translating policy briefs into English, assisting with workshops and researching the social and environmental impacts of the coal industry.
“I have worked for many non-profit organizations in the United States,” says Workman, who has interned with the Fresh Air Fund and Rural & Migrant Ministries. “But never for one abroad. Working for Green ID is giving me a chance to see what this kind of work might look like in other parts of the world.”
Along with her FEA scholarship, Workman received the Student International Initiatives Fund (SIIF) from the HWS Center for Global Education, which gives students funding to purse a project they are passionate about. Her project is titled “Vietnamese Traditional Performing Arts Captured,” and allows her to take lessons in đàn bầu (monochord instrument), attend traditional performances and capture them through photography.
For Workman, the opportunity to have cross-cultural experiences in Vietnam is building a foundation for her future career. After graduation, she intends to use her experience to become an English as a Second/Foreign Language teacher and to continue her passions in the non-profit field.
“Coming to a new country and not knowing the language can be frustrating but also eye opening,” says Workman. “Having this experience means more fully being able to understand what it is like to live in a place where you do not know the language, customs and culture.”