Nola in Vietnam

UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Nola Smart has spent her summer doing an internship in Vietnam through a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia (PMSA). She writes about the experience.

Nola's experience

PMSA is a programme provided by the New Zealand Government to:

  • enrich New Zealand’s ability to engage with Asian partners
  • improve the international skills of our workforce
  • establish connections between countries
  • strengthen New Zealanders’ understanding of other cultures.

In other words, it’s about creating global citizens, one of the strategic areas of the New Zealand National Commission of UNESCO.

Through the University of Auckland I am currently completing a PMSA-funded two month (Jan-Feb) internship in Vietnam to complement my Urban Planning degree. Placed in one of Vietnam’s leading architecture firms, Transform Architecture, I am gaining valuable exposure to the international design and construction industry. However, in a degree like Urban Planning it’s not only your time at the office that helps you grow but also experiencing how communities fit together and function. Ho Chi Minh City, where I am based, is an emerging mega city with a metropolitan area population of around three times the entire New Zealand population! Despite being such a different environment to back home it is interesting to recognise the same urban issues arising and note how they are responded to.

I have tried to make the most of my time here, budget travelling on the weekends on overnight buses and during the Tet holidays (Lunar New Year). Being able to experience Tet has in itself been an exciting experience; gaining appreciation of new customs and traditions. I found interesting the differences in communities throughout Vietnam; from the Mekong Delta in the south to Ha Giang in the north and in-between. I am also hoping to make a trip to Cambodia in these last few weeks.

Exploring a UNESCO Global Geopark, Dong Van Karst Plateau in the north of Vietnam, made me excited for our new focus on Geoparks here in New Zealand. Not only does this mountainous area have spectacular landscapes with geoheritage dating from about 550 million years ago but it also has a unique and rich culture with 17 ethnic groups. A fascinating area, you can read more about it here.

An incredibly valuable experience, time has flown by and I will soon be returning to New Zealand to start the third year of my degree, exhausted but enriched.

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