“Be open for new things and dare to make mistakes!”
Ken Goigner studies International Business Administration at WU Vienna. As part of the ISU WU program of WU Vienna’s International Office, he has spent a few weeks abroad in Vietnam. On our WU Blog, he tells us about his experiences.
WU Blog: Which aspects did you like most about the academic program?
Ken Goigner: Regarding the academic program I really appreciated that we got taught by Vietnamese professors as well, even though that might be challenging since the teaching methods are very different to what we are used to at WU. I also liked the fact that we got to work on a real project which made the understanding process of the theories we learnt in classes easier. By implementing those theories, we acquired a better understanding of the actual aim and its benefits.
The project let us apply the theories and learn to work with people with a different cultural background. In my opinion that was the most challenging part but also the aspect I personally liked the most about the academic program, because it shows how important intercultural skills are on an international scale.
One of the highlights I want to mention was the intercultural evening where we introduced each other some important facts about the other culture.
WU Blog: What were your highlights in the leisure program?
Ken Goigner: Thanks to the organization the leisure program was very well organized and contributed to the overall satisfaction of this international summer university. Two company visits were planned in order to show us the working environment in the host country. Amongst the company visits there was one water purifier producer which was about to export to different European countries from Vietnam. After seeing the headquarter in Hanoi we were shown the factory in the surroundings of the city. I had the impression that the second company visit was even more interesting since we got to visit a textile factory where they produce clothes for Zara and Tommy Hilfiger. This experience was unique because it showed us where our clothes originally come from.
Apart from the company visits, they showed us the museum of Ethnology where we got a good understanding of how diverse the population of Vietnam is. Also, the Hoa Lo prison and the Literature Temple were shown to us. One of the highlights I want to mention was the intercultural evening where we introduced each other some important facts about the other culture. This event was successful and the Austrian delegation as well as the Vietnamese one enjoyed it a lot.
WU Blog: Which aspects did you like most about the ISU country and WU’s partner university?
Ken Goigner: Vietnam is a diverse country with beautiful natural places and a long history. Sure, the language is challenging, and there are significant social issues, but there’s just so much to appreciate about this country. In many developed countries around the world, healthy food is normally more expensive. That’s not the case in Vietnam, though. Here, the healthiest foods are usually the cheapest.
Vietnam is a diverse country with beautiful natural places and a long history.
Some people would rather let other people do all the driving for them in Vietnam, which is a perfectly fine option thanks to cheap apps like Grab and Uber. But most of the people living here love the two-wheeled lifestyle. It’s dangerous, no doubt, but nothing quite compares to the sense of freedom on a motorbike. The best part of Vietnam are the numerous markets. Walking into a Vietnamese market is a complete sensual experience — the smells, the noises and, especially, the weird and wonderful sights. There are pig heads, mounds of colorful fruits, bushels of herbs, trays of freshly caught fish and so much more.
Regarding the two partner universities the New Economics University was quite modern and had one big sky scrapper from which you could see the whole city. The equipment was suitable for the lectures and the campus easily accessible even by public transport (even though you would have rather taken the taxi because of the cheap price). Hanoi University of Science and Technology is the biggest university in Vietnam and offers a great infrastructure with more than 200 teaching rooms. You can easily enjoy your time on a bench in campus area surrounded by nature and still be in the middle of the city. The lecturers are good and very friendly to the students. Their skills and sense of humor make the classes worth joining.
WU Blog: Which were the most important experiences and learnings you could take out of the attended program?
Ken Goigner: It has been amazing to meet all of the Vietnamese students in class and hear about what they love about Hanoi and how our different school experiences are. To learn from Vietnamese professors has been eye-opening and very interesting to learn these different perspectives in class. Especially the groupwork together with Vietnamese students was very challenging but at the same time an interesting experience, since it showed me how different the attitude towards work can be and which problems may occur when working in an international team.
I think one of the best things has been the social program – they have been bringing us to different places around Hanoi, showing us the sights, getting to see various places, getting different experiences and then getting to meet locals.
Especially the groupwork together with Vietnamese students was very challenging but at the same time an interesting experience.
WU Blog: Do you have any tips for future ISU participants regarding the program and preparing for an ISU program in general?
Ken Goigner: First of all, I want to congratulate those students who decided to participate at any of the ISU programs, because you receive detailed insights in a country’s higher education system, you learn how business models are established in that country and how typical cultural boundaries can be avoided. That brings me to the first point I would recommend to future ISU students: Be open for new things and dare to make mistakes! This program offers you the right setting to try out new things and to work on yourself. So, take the theories and concepts the professors teaches you and apply them on your projects. Another very helpful hint is to care about the communication in your group. That includes to determine goals, to motivate participation and to do things that keep the group intact. Make sure your message reaches the recipient correctly in order to avoid misunderstanding in the group. Split up each task and distribute the workload equally amongst the group members.
Do not decide on important things on your own without asking the others and act as a team player in order to embrace the group’s full potential. Don’t get discouraged by the amount of work this project might come along with but rather keep in mind the potential outcome as well as your personal growth. Your time investment will without doubt be rewarded through gaining professional experiences inalienable in an international business environment.