Kathy Dao - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to apply for an international program? 

I wanted to do something a little different.

Why did you choose Idex? 

I chose Idex because the university (Jacksonville University) I attended had brochures on volunteering abroad.

Volunteers at the Idex house in Vietnam

Volunteers at the Idex house

What was your favorite part about Ho Chi Minh City? 

My favorite part was the day and night life.

How was your experience with Idex unique? 

I am Asian-American, to be specific, I am part Vietnamese. I've traveled to Vietnam twice before this volunteer trip. This time around, I traveled as a volunteer, so I got to see things that I've never seen before. I was trying to be open-minded.

 How was the local staff at Idex?

They support me with their full 110 percent. They were there for me from Day One and are still communicating with me and wishing me well.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

I wish I would have stayed longer. In just a span of two weeks, I was able to meet new people and fall in love with the culture in a different way. Everyone there was very loving toward me and I regretted not staying longer.

Describe a day in the life of your volunteer program in Vietnam. 

In the morning, I wake up around 7:30 a.m. (because at 8 a.m., the taxi comes to pick me up) to get ready and get a quick breakfast. The taxi arrives and takes me to the teaching project ( I am always accompanied with a translator). I teach two classes in the morning and have lunch break around 11:30 a.m. to noon. Then, there is a two-hour break before the next class starts. So my translator, other volunteer(s), and I would walk down the street to a small coffee shop. We usually stay there for the entire two hours and then head back to teach the last class. Then, the taxi arrives around 4 p.m. and takes us back to Idex. Around 6:30 p.m., we have dinner and then chill with everyone. Light should be out by 11 p.m.

Learning how to cook Indian Samosas

Mr. Mojan taught us how to cook India's Samosas

What is your favourite memory from outside of the classroom? 

I was able to spend New Year's in Vietnam. The volunteers and I traveled to the District 1 to hangout and have dinner. Then, before midnight strikes, we walked to the main road where they would be firing fireworks.

How was your accommodation in Ho Chi Minh? What did you like most about it?

At the Idex house, I was provided with food, clean sheets, air conditioning, and a washing machine. My room was very big and I had two other roommates (you could easily fit six people into that room!). What I appreciated most about the house were the bedrooms, mainly because there was a enough space for everyone. We all had our own corner and could walk around.

What was the most difficult aspect about volunteering in Vietnam? 

The hardest part about volunteering abroad is the ability to step out of your comfort zone. After that, I would have to say that saying goodbye to the new friends I’ve made was the most difficult aspect. As my time there was up, I felt like I’ve made more friends in two weeks than in the last two years- especially with the girls at the teaching center.

Volunteers in Vietnam

Last day volunteering

What surprised you most about Ho Chi Minh City? 

The most surprising thing about Ho Chi Minh City was how modern it became. There are many different kinds of transportation to get around: buses, taxis, charter bus, and cars. With all this available, it’s possible for you to travel back and forth from the volunteer house.

What is the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad that you discovered? 

The biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is the open-minded experience you are presented with. The ability to learn an entire new culture (while helping others!) helps you  understand your own culture. It’s like killing two birds with one stone: I help others but simultaneously learn from them.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Ho Chi Minh City? 

Some of the things you definitely will need are: bug spray, shower sandals, wipes, and a pair of comfortable sneakers to travel in. Also, bring at least one backpack you can carry around the city when sightseeing.

Christmas Eve 2015 at the Teaching Center

International teachers celebrating Christmas Eve in Vietnam

Did your time with Idex leave a lasting impact on your life? 

Yes! It has impacted me tremendously! I will never forget this life-changing event. I cannot wait to do it all over again!

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go? 

If I could volunteer abroad again, I would like to go to India or Thailand. This would definitely be out of my comfort zone because when I went to Vietnam, the biggest advantage I had was the ability to speak both English and Vietnamese.