Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Lackey

Thien Mu Pagoda in Vietnam

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with VIA in Vietnam?

Stephanie: I decided to volunteer with VIA in Vietnam after talking to my friend, who was a previous volunteer. She had had a wonderful experience, especially with the support from VIA. Also, VIA is affordable, and has job posts in English resource. Many other organizations focus on teaching, which is something I was not interested in doing full-time. VIA volunteers have health insurance, housing provided, get a paid flight back to the U.S. upon completion of the contract, great and prompt support from VIA staff members, a mid-point catch-up conference with all volunteers from the region one volunteers in (either Southeast Asia or China) and an overall incredible experience in Asia. If a volunteer is having a bad experience, VIA will help to fix the problems.

I chose to volunteer in Vietnam because it was a country I knew very little about, but had heard it was a wonderful place to travel and volunteer. The people are so nice, there are many places to visit, and life is simple and comfortable (except for mosquitos in the
summer, and mold during the rainy season). Depending on which city a volunteer is placed in, cost of living is inexpensive, and the monthly stipend is enough for food, cleaning supplies, and some luxury items (clothes, bus tickets, etc).

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Stephanie: My day to day activities include waking up, getting ready for work, walking around the corner from my house to the office, work for 3.5 hours, have a 2 hour lunch break, work another 3.5 hours, relax at home, go out to dinner/coffee/drinks with friends, (who are other NGO workers in Hue) then relax or skype and go to bed. My work activities involve editing papers in English, writing new summaries for newsletters, attending some conferences, and working on various projects such as updating and organizing the office library.

Other day to day activities include shopping at the local market, picking up a few things at the supermarket, going for a beautiful bike ride, reading, going to yoga class, hanging out with friends, and eating a ton of good food.

The entrance to The Forbidden Purple City in Vietnam

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Stephanie: This experience is impacting my professional future by allowing me to have work experience in the environmental field (my field of study) and at a established NGO. These kinds of opportunities are difficult to come by! I am getting first-hand experience in the office and have had a chance to accompany a researcher in the field. I am planning to apply to a Master's program in the next couple of years, so this work experience will enhance my resume and application.

Personally, I hope to be able to work with Vietnam and other Asian countries in the future. I have been able to network with many people from all over the world, so I hope these connections can lead to exciting and great experiences in the future!