Beyond learning: Vietnam study tour engages students

Participants of the 2019 Vietnam Study Tour at Halong Bay. (Photo supplied)

In January the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation introduced an interdisciplinary group of 11 students from across the university to the diverse Vietnamese business landscape. In this 10 credit point course, the 2026IBA Vietnam Study Tour students embraced the challenge to imagine a future career in their respective fields beyond Australia and in Vietnam. Linking up with students from Hanoi University and the Banking University Ho Chi Minh City, Griffith students worked with the problem of business, tourism and development. Over three weeks they were able to experience first-hand the social, economic and political complexity of a developing nation: from the old capital of Hanoi to the cosmopolitan business centre of Ho Chi Minh City, remote village homestay to Halong Bay cruise, and the Mekong Delta river trade.

Dr Cathy Burns, course convenor, accompanied the students to workshops, lectures and discussions at two Vietnamese universities and with a range of business and community leaders including the village head of an ethnic minority community, marketing managers of Microsoft Vietnam, startup program director at the Saigon Innovation Hub, and Australian expatriates succeeding in Vietnam business ventures.

“The students said they almost felt guilty about having so much fun while learning on so many different levels.”

“They recognised that the trip provided a supportive base from which to explore a new Asian country, and in confronting so many unfamiliar situations they had developed a new confidence”, Burns said.

At the halfway point in her degree, Kelly Burstow observed three main challenges as a learner. Firstly, understanding the complexities of a rapidly globalising world and the implications to learning and work; secondly, wading through the enormity of available information; and thirdly, navigating changeable environments in the education, technology and business sectors.She began the Vietnam Study Tour with scepticism, but completed the trimester as an advocate.

“More than any other course, the Vietnam Study Tour helped me tackle these challenges by providing me with skills I can take with me throughout the rest of my degree, and beyond. Skills include the ability to tap into interdisciplinary fields to problem solve, the confidence to connect-the-dots through a variety of research methods, and the value of adopting an adaptability mindset,” Kelly said.

“The program took me beyond learning into deep engagement — I didn’t expect that!”

While in Vietnam, the Griffith team had the opportunity to learn in structured environments across a variety of disciplines, including tourism, business and finance sectors. This provided a strong knowledge base to work from. However, it was coupling the theoretical base with informal learning, personal conversations and in-country experiences that solidified and extended her knowledge.

“It was interesting to experience learning in such an effortless and comprehensive way. As an example, lectures at Hanoi University covered sustainable tourism and the need for action at global, national, local and individual levels. We discussed a case study from Halong Bay tourism.”

Later, the team visited the picturesque spot, and were able to observe the strategies discussed and meet an advocacy group — — who work together with tourism operators, businesses governments, educators, environmental groups and individuals to achieve positive environmental outcomes. Together with Scuba, the team assisted in a clean-up while enjoying a kayaking around Halong Bay.

“It was exciting to observe a practical example of how different sectors can join together to problem solve and have learned the value of interdisciplinary programs and how making connections translates into real-life work opportunities.”

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of picking a focus and aligning research accordingly, instead of being open to how research might shape the focus. The major assessment for this course provided me with a tangible way to put this into practice. I was encouraged to gather information from a variety of sources by listening to experts (lectures at Vietnam universities), following the research (through designated readings and further research), engaging in personal conversations (with a variety of people including expats and Vietnamese locals), and experiencing the studied environment firsthand (exploring different parts of Vietnam).”

“Learning from Asia while in Asia provided an environment for meaningful research.”

“During the tour, we had the opportunity to meet two Australian entrepreneurs working in Vietnam. While the focus was doing business in Asia, what struck me was the importance of learning to be a confident and adaptable person. These personal skills are imperative for success in rapidly changing environments. Hearing firsthand from inspiring individuals outside the traditional classroom added significant value to the course. I completed the course feeling equipped and inspired as I move forward in my studies, and I’m extremely grateful for the experience.”

Dr Catherine Burns, now in her fourth year convening this course said the students believed the experience had provided them a deeper understanding of the importance of adaptability, cooperation and a ‘can-do’ attitude that would be key to navigating 21st century insecurities including how work is being redefined and the future employment environment.

Find out more about the Vietnam Study Tour.