Vietnam House Building

In a group of around 20 students, we went to a rural area in Vietnam to help build a house.

In 2014, I travelled to Vietnam as a study experience along with 30 other students and we were given the opportunity to help build a house in Mai Chau Village, a relatively rural farming area in Vietnam. In addition, as I was given scholarship for this trip, I was also responsible for archiving the trip and doing a written reflection afterwards for the school's yearbook.

Skills used:

  • Teamwork:  Building a house takes a lot of work and coordination. Many of the procedures required not only strength but also coordination to complete. In this process, I exercised my teamwork skills through the various tasks at different stations.

Task: Cutting bamboo

One piece of bamboo was very long and had to be worked on by multiple people at the same time.

Challenge--Task Placement: Because this was one of the relatively more fun tasks, people often fought for a place in this station. As a team player, I chose stations based on whichever lacked people the most, which faciliated a happier working condition for everyone.

Task: Pulling up heavy materials onto an elevated platform.

Required good coordination and cooperativeness, which was maintained through good communication with every person on the team.

 

  • Leadership: As one of the scholarship students, I decided that I had to act as a good role model for other classmates.
    • I worked with other scholarship students to distribute and organize the archival and essay work that we were given after the trip.
    • I interacted and befriended everyone on the trip to gauge the atmosphere and ensure that conflicts were peacefully resolved.
    • Challenge--Low Morale: Throughout this trip, there were many times when people had low morale due to enduring hot and humid conditions, as well as power outages, broken limbs, and heatstrokes. I also had an injuring accident and was told by  the trip supervisors that I could skip the next day of construction if I needed to. However, I decided to continue attending anyway, and this lightened the atmosphere of the group, which helped us complete the house with a better morale.
  • Communication: I was assigned to different teams based on which part of construction needed more help, and that meant running back and forth through the village to reach different stations and frequent communication with others to coordinate and distribute the supply of team members.
    • Challenge--Language barrier: Because we were working directly with locals who did not speak English (and we did not speak Vietnamese), it was difficult to communicate. We had only 2 translators with a team of around 50 people throughout the construction site. How I solved this was through body language and also memorizing the pronounciation of words that were used a lot, which not only made work more efficient but I was also able to bond with locals quickly.

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Learning Significance

  1. What did I learn?

    My privilege: The power outage, hot and humid indoor conditions, and long treks we had to make to go to the cosntruction site made me realize I had a lot of privilege I didn't notice before.
    There's a lot to be learnt everywhere, especially outside of academic institutions: I had studied and learnt how to build things in my design technology course before, but they were all for simply building small objects. To participate in constructing something this big under hot and humid conditions put my learning into perspective about how much more difficult actually applying these skills were in real life.
    Global perspective: I was also able to obtain a more global perspective on culture, especially one which most tourists wouldn't get to interact with, and by living in the local setting I had more empathy for their daily life habits and difficulties.