How Women Are Bettering the Future of Vietnam

It was hectic, hot, and dirty. My friends and I got in tuk-tuk accidents, had clothing stolen from our hotel rooms, lost credit cards to countless ATMS, and suffered food poisoning. It was honestly and absolutely wonderful.

I am describing my first taste of living in Asia.


I have been living in Vietnam for almost one year now, since October of 2013, and before that I was in Cambodia beginning a TESOL (Teaching English To Speakers of Other Language Courses) and embarking on a journey that would change my life as I knew it.

I flew into Phenom Penh, Cambodia in late September 2013. I began my training through a highly recommended program called Languagecorps (LC). While in Cambodia, my LC group and I found ourselves exploring the bustling city of Phenom Penh, the world-renowned treasure of Angkor Wat, and the quiet backpacker’s beach haven of Sihanoukville.  These three very different places allowed me an eclectic glimpse into Cambodian life for the short amount of time I was living there.

After making the move over to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam I wasn’t sure what to expect. I still had two weeks left in my TESOL course so that gave me something familiar to latch [cling with all fours] onto in this ocean of new and confusing civilization.

‘Culture shock’ zapped me like never before.

In those first 2 weeks of my stay in Vietnam, I’d walk to class staring back at people staring at me and find myself wondering…how do I feel about this? Perhaps I went a tad bit too far with my adventure quest?

I was an American girl who just up and moved into the middle of a chaotic, not-quite-used-to-foreigners-yet country called Vietnam. Not to mention I am almost 6 feet tall and blond. Would I ever fit in? Nope. Would I find a dreamy boyfriend in a land where the tops of most men’s heads barely graze my shoulder? Not likel Definitely not. Was there something strangely thrilling about being a foreigner; about living at the very bottom of our human existence hierarchy? Absolutely.

I was nobody and I was everybody. I could do or be anything I wanted. A fresh new beginning was mine for the taking.


I completed my training, got an apartment and a job, and got going on my new way of life as the definitive ‘somebody who doesn’t belong.’

It is through my new way of life in Vietnam, that I came to realize the power women hold in bringing communities together.

I recently visited Sa Pa, a city in northern Vietnam surrounded by many rural villages. Who run these villages? Women. These women are the breadwinners who go to the city center for work while the men stay at home, and they are the ones who led our trek so we could stare in awe of the rolling rice paddy terraces and flowing crystal rivers.

In Hoi An and Hue, two cities in central Vietnam, you’ll find women running the market places and travel agencies, speaking better English than many of my American friends back home. Even the café I am sitting in right now –a very hipster-chic popular café called Au Parc in fashionable District One of HCMC — is run by a woman and she is expanding her locations as we speak.

From my manager at Vietnam USA Society (VUS), the language center in Vietnam that I am teaching at, to a mother I set up private tutoring sessions with, to the people who’ve created anti-trafficking, anti sexual abuse shelters like Little Rose Shelter and Pacific Links Organization, to the person running the orphanage I now work at; ALL are women. It’s amazing. It seems that no matter where I work or find myself being drawn to, I am unfailing reporting to a woman.

Everywhere I look there are powerful, bright women paving the way for a “better future” here in Vietnam. I simply cannot pinpoint just one thing that inspires me and other young women in this country; inspiration and female pioneers are practically unavoidable.


Follow Katherine’s posts for more updates on her powerful stories and inspiring dedication to the women and communities of Asia!


Slide1Katherine Bailey grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts with her two brothers, sister and mom and dad. She is 25 years old and passionate about traveling. She graduated from Winchester High School in 2007, studied at UCT in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010, and graduated from Bates College in 2011. Katherine lived in South Boston, MA and worked in Cambridge for EF Education First from 2011-2013. Katherine has been living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam since the fall of 2013. She is currently teaching English ESL with VUS in Gò Vấp District in addition to private tutoring. While in Asia she has traveled to Cambodia, Myanmar and Singapore. She is looking forward to visiting Thailand, China, Nepal and India this coming fall!
Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Read more from the author: Katherine’s WiLab Profile 

Originally posted 2014-08-27 08:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter