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Christine White's Story

Christine White in Vietnam in 2023

One way to explain my Social Entrepreneurship Project experience is to share my 4Ps of Vietnam: People, Place, Project and Passion. Below is a brief overview of a journey that had a significant impact on my own learning as well as my awareness of Vietnam, NSCC student experiences, international relations, tourism, entrepreneurship and education.

You often hear that it’s the people that make an experience. In the case of our Vietnam trip, that is 100% true. We were fortunate that the place, the experience and the people on this trip were extraordinary. From the planning and support we received from NSCC International and NSCC Entrepreneurship to our gracious hosts at Tra Vinh University and Gia Lai College – we were taken care of every step of the way. As travelers, we were initially a group of nine strangers from different NSCC campuses. Now, we are a group of life-long friends who keep in touch on What’s App and Instagram – with puns, life updates, support and check-ins. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet so many talented and inspiring individuals from Canada and Vietnam on this project. We laughed, we cried, we sang karaoke together, we have “inside” jokes, as well as an intense respect for one another. Several students commented that they had been told Vietnam would be a life-changing trip, but they had no idea how true that statement would be. People played an important role in the success and learning of this trip.

Vietnam has delicious food, captivating music, natural beauty, elaborate temples, a lot of scooters and crazy traffic! We visited three areas of the country: Ho Chi Min City, Tra Vinh and Pleiku. Each area was unique and showed a different aspect of Vietnamese life. We had time on our own to explore, as well as lots of organized activities to learn about the places we were staying and the tourism/social entrepreneurship in those areas. Highlights for me included:
• Exploring Ho Chi Min City with our NSCC group and the Tra Vinh students. What a busy city!
• We lived on Tra Vinh University campus (Southern Vietnam) – seeing how the school system worked, learning about the Khmer people, visiting social enterprises and meeting the fabulous Tra Vinh students. Miss Anh, Miss Khanh and their students were kind and gracious hosts – who proudly and patiently translated, assisted and supported our learning.
• Pleiku (central Vietnam) was a new addition to the Vietnam project this year. Seeing another part of Vietnam – Gia Lai College, eating regional cuisine, seeing local sites, learning to make (and eat) spring rolls and watching the students present their entrepreneurial ideas here were high points for me.

As part of the project, students were divided in three groups. Two NSCC students and three Tra Vinh students were in each group. They were tasked with creating a business or solving a problem for the Tra Vinh/Vietnam/Global community with a focus on social entrepreneurship. Through research, teamwork and understanding the social issues and community in the area, groups developed a business (or solution) that addressed at least one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The following business ideas were presented in Pleiku this year:
• Yang-Lake Ca Phe: Weasel Coffee – creating an ethically-sourced premium product that would support student scholarships.
• eco tra vinh: A second-hand store run by students for students – with proceeds supporting student education/needs.
• New Beginnings: Reducing plastic waste by creating fashionable accessories (bags, bracelets, etc.) out of plastics.
The presentations were creative, educational and showcased positive actions and real solutions. All the students did a fantastic job on their projects.

As part of our entrepreneurship project, we saw first-hand the passion of local businesses and pride of place in the Tra Vinh area.
Sok Farm
We visited Sok Farm - a social enterprise near Tra Vinh University. Sok in the Khmer language means happiness. Essentially, they are a “happiness” farm. They use nectar from the coconut flower to create organic products using sustainable practices - that support farmers. During our visit they were getting ready to open a farm stay – to add further value (tourism) to their farm/products and experience.
Bird Island
We explored Com Chim (Bird Island) by bicycle. We really ate our way around this gem of an island! This experience was a combination of community tourism, culinary tourism, eco-tourism and preserving cultural identity. We participated in a variety of cultural activities (made traditional food, fished, played games) and met local storytellers who shared their talents and history. One of the highlights was trying butterfly pea flower tea.
Tra Vinh University
On campus, Tra Vinh students work in entrepreneurial businesses that provide a service or product for all students and give-back to the student population. There is a corner store, a Bahn Mi shop and a phone/technology store. The businesses hire students - providing an income and work experience. They provide scholarships/funding for students as well from the sales. My understanding is that all businesses are campus-led ideas that are created through the entrepreneurship centre.

I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible and inspiring experience. Every time I look at these photos, share one of the Vietnam businesses in my tourism class, talk about social entrepreneurship with students or crave Trà Dào (Vietnamese Peach Tea) – I will reflect on all that I have learned because of this opportunity. I feel fortunate to have been part of such an amazing adventure. Cảm ơn.