Vietnam is a “young” country. You can see it everywhere you look and in the statistics (median age: 27.4). It’s what economists refer to as a “demographic dividend,” which Vietnam is hoping to take advantage of.
I recently spent a couple of mornings and afternoons conducting Skype interviews with young people, high school and university students, from Hanoi, Haiphong Danang and HCMC, who had applied to work as student volunteers for an upcoming StudyUSA Community College Fair series organized by my company, Capstone Vietnam.
The main purpose of these “interviews,” actually more like brief chats, was to determine their English proficiency and how they might be able to contribute to our events. Keep in mind that these students had already been pre-screened by our volunteer coordinators in each city. We got to hear about their studies, interests, career plans, hobbies, volunteer activities, work experience and plans for further study, including overseas. One even sang a song (!).
What I remember is how good so many were in English and how difficult the selection decision was in some cases. In addition to spoken English skills, we also took into account their enthusiasm about and interest in our work. I came away with very positive impressions of this cross-section of young people – their intelligence, work ethic, energy, ambition, desire to gain valuable practical experience and to make new friends. The end result is an outstanding team of student volunteers in four cities in northern, central and southern Vietnam.
This is, of course, about much more than the popularity of English in Vietnam or the burning desire of many young people here to broaden their intellectual and experiential horizons. It’s about the power of the Internet to connect people through technology that allows us to communicate synchronously and asynchronously. It’s also about the proliferation of online communities and social media sites such as Facebook, which is the 7th most popular website here.
These exhilarating interactions reaffirm my overall optimism about Vietnam and its future.