Alumni Spotlight: Deborah Baronian

Deborah currently works as a Teacher Aide at a private High School in Australia. In her spare time, she studies Education Support to further her knowledge and understanding of working with teenagers. When she isn't working or studying she enjoys bushwalking, crafting, and reading.

Why did you choose this program?

Well, this program chose me. I attended an information session for my course and was informed that a Study Tour of Vietnam was being offered to 10 students and funded by the Australian Government.

I love the diversity of foreign cultures, traveling to new places, learning, growing, developing professionally, and working alongside others, so I applied and got accepted.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ kept us informed about all things cultural and acceptable (do's and don'ts), all things medical, how to keep safe, and how to communicate. They equipped us with tutorials in all of these lines, so that we were well informed ahead of time. Then it was just a matter of making sure that we put it all into practice in time for the trip.

My local course provider set up a monthly Hangout to prepare us for each stage of transition we were likely to encounter. This was super helpful as to passports, insurance, visa applications, itinerary planning etc.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I don't think it's possible to know everything ahead of time. There has to be something left to discover, something completely unknown. Otherwise, where's the excitement in overcoming challenges?

In hindsight, there are always things you wish you had known beforehand. For me, it was not knowing whether or not I needed to plan the lessons I was to teach. And sure enough, I experienced plenty of excitement in overcoming this challenge!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Up at dawn, breakfast, off to work at 8 am, lunch at 12.30 pm, work until 3 pm, back to the hotel, out for dinner, shop or cultural activity. This tour was for 10 days, so we packed a lot into them.

We taught English to young adults from 9 am to 3 pm for 5 days, but the first 3 days were spent immersing ourselves in the culture by visiting historical places, getting into the countryside and mingling with the locals.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was most uncertain about how I would be perceived or accepted in another culture because it would be obvious that I'm different and white. I just smiled at everyone I saw and humbled myself as a stranger in a strange land where I was a minority.

My views soon relaxed because I noticed I was treated with respect and accepted as one of them. People were so friendly and kind, and I felt part of their lives.

What do I think prospective travelers would want to know?

Go with an open heart and mind. Be alert. Take in your surroundings with every breath. Be grateful for every experience. Capture each moment in the 'photo' section of your memory. Be prepared to always esteem others as better than yourself. Be calm. Do not invite conflict. Remember that a soft answer turns away anger.

Learn all you can about the culture you are entering, and develop a healthy respect for it and its people while you are part of it. Meet and get to know the locals, make new friends, learn the language basics so you can communicate with them. Love them. They have much to teach you.