A year to the day I have been living and working in Vietnam, and it’s time to reflect on my experience…

It’s been quite a ride.

I was a fresh university graduate, who came away to Hanoi impulsively after a 3 day visit with friends. I left everything and everyone I knew to explore this peculiar city and to get some valuable life and work experience which, had I stayed in Hull, I can’t imagine I would have had. It goes without saying that the lack of jobs in England is pretty difficult to come to terms with after spending three years studying for something that you hope will get you the job you want, and spend thousands of pounds to come out with the degree… and what do you get out of it? An unsatisfying job, irrelevant to what you want to do, and you spend the entire time miserable until you get the right job.

Fisherman in West Lake, Hanoi
At the time, that just wasn’t for me… though granted, I didn’t even have a job offer for ANY of my applied-for jobs, had left Manchester for financial reasons and found myself on the dole in Hull… It wasn’t an appealing lifestyle.

So when the opportunity to teach English in Vietnam arose, I snatched it up! Within two weeks of coming back from my travels with my friends, I had a job sorted, a temporary place to stay, and I was on that plane.

Vietnamese Students, Hanoi

It all happened so fast, and it only really hit me when I was heading towards Departures at Manchester Airport, waving goodbye to my grandparents and my mum…. And I cried… a lot. And I panicked that I was making a rash decision that I hadn’t thought through.

My original plan was to stay in Hanoi for three months, and in January I would look for a job in Hong Kong, preferably a fashion-orientated job, but I would probably take anything to keep me afloat until then… But here I am, one year later still in Hanoi. I haven’t moved house, I’ve got some incredible friends, bagged myself a bloke, and living a pretty decent lifestyle.

Expat Life, Vietnam

I’ve worked a lot, I’ve played a lot, I’ve earned a lot, I’ve spent a lot… I’ve lived a lot.

I look back to the girl who arrived here on her own. Such a brave decision in my opinion, but on arrival, I was a quivering wreck. Completely out of my comfort zone. I had forgotten the attention I would draw to myself having peroxide white blonde hair, and just the taxi drivers at the airport were intimidating enough. (I allowed myself to get ripped off by most taxi and Xe Om drivers). I felt impeccably shy and insecure, stayed in my 10-bed hostel dorm for 3 days, and only came out when I was either too hungry to sleep or when Gareth, who worked at the hostel, came and got me. I Skyped home each day.

IMG_0434Once I started to work, I began to feel a bit more comfortable in my new surroundings. I finally went out one night, when I met someone named Winnie who immediately became my saviour and my friend. The following day, Gareth introduced me to Luke who was looking for a housemate. And this lead me to my now-best friend Fleur, and my new house. From then I started feeling like I had my feet more on the ground and I was beginning to come out of my shell… though it would take quite some time until I would actually start to feel “confident”.

 

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And now, I’m completely settled in my own mind that I made the right decision. The experience has been invaluable, and the memories and the people have been unforgettable. My working attitude has improved significantly and I  feel more mature having finally had a “proper job”. (Previously to this I had only worked as a Sales Assistant, a Receptionist, and behind a bar)… And who’d have thought, I have become more disciplined in my daily routines, especially coming to terms with early mornings! Granted, I am still late to things on a regular basis, and I am still shockingly untidy, but like they say, Old Habits Die Hard.

 

I am due to go home to England for two weeks very soon, and I am desperately excited. I worry that I will find it incredibly difficult to leave my family again, and I know that it will fly. I miss them ridiculous amounts and they have supported me greatly though I know it has been hard for them also. I think it will be interesting when I go back to see how much has changed, (if anything); what my friends are doing with themselves; and whether I can still drive a car or not!!!!

Keep you posted.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

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