[US to Vietnam + Myanmar ’14]: Erin Van Sickle: Vietnam is full of contradictions

11-24-2014 posted by Acypl
Delegates visiting Imperial Purple City
Delegation visiting Imperial Purple City in Hue, Vietnam. (Erin is second from the left in the front row)

When I reflect on the time our delegation spent in Hanoi, I realize we have only gained an idea of the exceptionally complex political and policy-making process in Vietnam. Our perceptions of the country changed with each new person we met, whether they were private citizens, members of the Communist party, American officials, college professors, or a part of the state-run media. More than once, I came away from meetings more confused and unsure than when I started.

Below are a few examples I noticed from the discussions we had about the political and social atmosphere in Vientam:

      • Point: Vietnam needs new entrepreneurs to create new jobs and new industries.
      • Counterpoint: Vietnam has many unfilled jobs because the workforce is not educated or trained appropriately. In fact, Vietnam may not need new industries at all, but rather immediate and more effective training for the current workforce.


      • Point: Vietnam is unified and stronger than ever, with an unprecedented energy and hunger for change. Nationalism is surging.
      • Counterpoint: The country is largely split between the interests of populations living in urban areas and those in rural areas. While cities like Hanoi may be bustling, the majority of the population live in rural areas, which are isolated from each other and rely on local customs and traditions.


      • Point: It is critical for as many students as possible to get a college education and pursue a career.
      • Counterpoint: There are not enough professors, books, or resources to enroll more students. Vocational training and workforce development is just as important and should receive more support.

The fact that we received both sides of the story (or even multiple sides) made our time in Vietnam more informative and  rewarding. We are so grateful to our VUS, our hosts, for ensuring that our delegation had the opportunity to meet with a variety of Vietnamese people with different points of view on their society, culture, and political process.

Erin Van Sickle is the External Affairs Director for Volunteer Florida

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