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Projects Abroad volunteer teacher and her students Projects Abroad volunteer teacher and her students

Occupational Therapy in Vietnam with Projects Abroad

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Volunteering as an Occupational Therapy student in Vietnam

As an occupational therapy student at the mid-way point of my degree, I had always pondered what my future profession looks like in practice within a developing country. This, combined with a desire to see the world and expand my worldview led me to volunteer in Vietnam with Projects Abroad over a period of four weeks. Throwing yourself into an entirely different culture and way of life is never the easiest experience, but I can honestly say that I felt very well supported by the Projects Abroad team every step of the way. From patiently answering the barrel of questions I had prior to applying and in preparation for going to Vietnam, to the personal guidance I received from the Vietnam Projects Abroad team during my stay in Vietnam, I was blown away by how attentive the team were to my needs and concerns every step of the way.

I volunteered with a friend from university and our placement was at Hanoi Friendship Village, a residential community for Vietnam War veterans and for children and adults with disabilities resulting from the intergenerational health effects caused by Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide that was used by the American military during the Vietnam War. We spent most of our time in the therapy room, working with the children and adults from 13-30 years old, most of who presented with Cerebral Palsy like characteristics. Working as an occupational therapy student in a country where our profession is not widely recognised came with its own set of challenges which we had to navigate, but through this experience we become more well-rounded and globally conscious OT students.

We stayed at one of the two volunteer houses with fellow volunteers from around the world. Sharing this experience with one another was one of the highlights of my time in Vietnam - my volunteer family were a valuable source of support after long days, and I have formed many treasured friendships as a result. Vietnam is a beautiful place to visit, full of warm people, and bringing your OT skills to the table will benefit the lives of many.

  • Projects Abroad responded to this review April 27, 2017 at 4:24 PM

    Dear Kathryn. Thank you for sharing! Indeed, Occupational Therapy is not a very recognized profession in Vietnam, but they are in real need of selfless OT volunteers like yourself. The impact you have on the patients you help is unmeasurable, even though it may seem like it was a short time for you being in such a beautiful country! This experience is all about helping those who need it most, but in most cases, they truly end up helping us more! Glad you were able to experience this yourself!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Occupational therapy internship

As a student in my undergrad I knew it would be an amazing experience at my age to pursue my passion in a different country as well as immersing myself in a culture I was not used to. I would recommend anyone interested in interning for Occupational Therapy to strongly consider this program. What I got out of traveling my by myself was a sense of confidence. I learned more about myself and my capabilities involving communication my field of study that no classroom could have ever taught me.
Not only do you get a feel for community and the struggles Vietnam was left with after the war, but you are taught how to work together and how to love one another through the struggles. My patients were victims of agent orange. Agent orange was a pesticide sprayed over Vietnam during the war. It left first, second, and third generation victims with disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy. Also, as aside from my placement, I lived with volunteers from around the world. It was enlightening, and I learned a lot about cultures and countries other than my own.
Traveling throughout Vietnam as strongly encouraged by the staff. They were extremely helpful in answering all questions and providing their insight. There were also set up activities throughout the week and on the weekends. The two volunteer houses in Hanoi were only 15 minute taxi/motor bike rides from the old quarter where we ate and and shopped all day.
The Occupational Therapy Placement was in Friendship Village where the staff was kind and the patients were full of laughter and smiles. They were always engaging in activities and all though there was a language barrier, we were always able to communicate through smiles (while also teaching each other our own language)!
Projects abroad is an amazing organization. They are kind, organized, helpful, and here to make sure your experience no matter how long, is amazing. I highly recommend Projects Abroad for anyone with a helpful hand and a desire to experience communities around the world.

  • Projects Abroad responded to this review February 01, 2017 at 6:25 PM

    Hi Mallory. Thanks for helping us in Vietnam! I am sure the patients you were able to assist are just as grateful. We also believe that doing an internship in a developing country offers the knowledge and experience that you cannot learn in a classroom. We are glad you were able to take full advantage of this opportunity, not only in your placement, but also outside with your new friends in this beautiful country!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    8

My experience in Vietnam

When I applied through Projects Abroad to do an occupational therapy internship in Vietnam I was looking to travel while also gaining experience to make my graduate school applications more competitive. When I left Vietnam I found that I achieved both of those things, but it was so much more valuable than I thought it would be in so many different ways.

As a person who had never left the U.S. prior to going to Vietnam I can honestly say that the staff at Projects Abroad did an amazing job before, during and after I went to Vietnam. If you want to be sure that you have a solid support system during your time abroad Projects Abroad is something that you should look into.

After I had been accepted into the program the staff immediately started helping me prepare. Months before I left I felt like I had a good understanding of what to expect when I arrived in Vietnam. They give you your own personal web page that you can log into and see all of the specific details of your placement, what to expect about the culture, what to bring etc.. My favorite part about the website was the fundraising portion where friends and family could directly donate money to my project fees. More than half of my program fees were paid through the fundraising page. That was amazing!

When I arrived in Vietnam I was able to meet many of the staff in person and got a personal tour of the city and a detailed explanation of my placement. I was placed at rehabilitation center for children with disabilities in a rural part of Hanoi. During the weekdays I lived at the rehabilitation center in a simple living accommodation. It was great to be completely immersed in the culture in that way. Those of us working there ate homemade Vietnamese food every day and were able to build close relationships with each other. During the weekends we lived in a beautiful house in the center of Hanoi with volunteers working in different placements. During the weekend we were able to travel and explore.

During my time in Vietnam I never felt like I didn't have support. I cannot stress enough how hard the staff work to ensure that their volunteers/interns have the support they need while also allowing them to independently work in and explore the country.

I would not trade my experience with Projects Abroad for anything!

Institution Affiliates:

The International Volunteer Programs Association