For some people, being in the middle of the ocean for 40 days without internet would be dreadful. But for two RMIT Vietnam students it was a beautiful and life-changing experience.
Professional Communication student Bui Thi Dan Anh and Business (Accountancy) student Do Thi Ngoc Tram were among 300 youth from ASEAN and Japan who participated in the SSEAYP exchange program in 2015.
The students lived together on the cruise ship Nippon Maru and travelled to five countries in the region.
Before she boarded the ship Anh didn’t consider herself a confident person.
“I was scared when I met new people,” Anh said.
“I was stressed the first month because I thought that I wouldn’t have any friends if I didn’t communicate!”
Surrounded by a new environment and new people, Anh was forced to adapt.
“I just made a list of questions and used them to start conversations. Now I’m more confident when I meet new people.
“The way that I reacted to situations on exchange was new and genuine. Here [at home] I know the people and they know me, and I can fit myself into the situation. But on exchange I reacted differently because the environment and people were new.
“When I reflect, I think I was more authentic on exchange. I discovered myself.”
For Tram, it was the experience of living with five foster families that was the most rewarding.
“The best thing about the homestay was receiving so much love and care,” Tram said.
Tram recounted a story of when she visited a towel museum with her shy, non-English speaking Japanese foster family.
“My foster mother noticed every single thing I picked up at the towel museum, just random things that I found cute,” Tram said.
“Afterwards she bought almost all of those things and then surprised me with them that night.
“I felt so guilty for picking up so many things!”
Tram laughed at the memory.
“Since we’ve come back my foster mother has sent me a photo album, and made me miss our time together so much,” Tram added.
Anh and Tram were two of four students who represented RMIT Vietnam on the SSEAYP exchange. The other two students were Bachelor of Business student Pham Dac Duc Anh and Professional Communication student Nguyen Thai Ha.
Their adventure has been compiled in the below video.
SSEAYP is an annual program sponsored by the Japanese Government and supported by the member-countries of ASEAN. In Vietnam the exchange is organised by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union.
Story: Howie Phung