Abroad in Oz: How the Minerva Fellows know they’re Nott at Union anymore

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By Rachael Carson

Rachael Carson ‘10 is working as a development analyst for the Friends of Hue Foundation in central Vietnam. Over the last eight months, she has collaborated with a team of local staff to implement Thriive Capital, a unique micro-finance model that offers equipment based loans to small and medium sized businesses with in kind charitable goods and services provided in return.

February 2010, Union College

I could be found at any of the following locations:

1. Second floor of Schaffer library typing furiously or staring blankly out the window.

2. Driving to the Boathouse, anxiously anticipating the pain soon to be inflicted by the ergometer.

3. At the C store deep in thought, debating between chocolate covered gummy bears or sour watermelon slices.

February 2011, Hue, Vietnam

Preparing for central Vietnam’s infamous weather.

a. The wool socks, knee length down coat and oversized sweaters necessary for Schenectady’s winters have been replaced by a bulky poncho and cotton clothes.

b. Since mold grows rapidly, leaving few belongings untouched by its fungus particles and pungent stench, the only accessory necessary is a bottle of bleach used to eliminate mold for everything from bedroom walls to leather shoes.

Lost in translation at a community Karate class.

a. My class takes place three times per week for an hour and a half. I pay roughly $2 per month.

b. My fellow classmates range in age and size. The average student is anywhere between 8 and 17

years old. Over half of the students barely reach my hip. The other half of the students just reach my shoulder. To be fair, I am 5’10.

Weaving through traffic.

a. Daily travel in Hue involves only one form of transportation: the motorbike. Walking is reserved             for tourists or locals striding to and from their motorbike.

b. Trucks! Food stands! Dogs! Children!—all jumping out in the middle of the road, doing their            best to test my driving skills and trick me into a collision.

c. An average Vietnamese helmet more closely resembles a stylish hat (imagine something between a baseball hat and fedora), than a device used to keep your head safe in traffic. My helmet, in contrast, is thick hard plastic, about fout times the size and includes a face shield.

Life in Union and Hue

Despite these new experiences, I am constantly reminded that no matter how different my day to day life, it is the people who make me the most happy, and what ultimately makes leaving so difficult, whether in Schenectady or at Hue.

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