Teaching Conversational English in Vietnam

First-time Global Volunteer Denise Nelson Nash has always had a passion for volunteering. In Hanoi, Vietnam, she accomplished a long-held goal – teaching conversational English at the Vietnamese Institute for Development Strategies (VIDS). She shares her story here:

“As a young adult, I lived and worked in Venezuela. Living in another country taught me the value of skills and cultural exchange. I have continued to identify ways to serve others through domestic and international volunteer work. Like all journeys, this one began with anticipation. Unlike other journeys, this trip was focused on service. I tutored five eager and bright professionals in English at the Vietnamese Institute for Development Strategies (VIDS). The first day of school was filled with anticipation, both for the teachers and the students. I remembered what I read once that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Volunteering to me is much the same, I couldn’t imagine any place I wanted to be in the world today than where I was in Hanoi looking forward to meeting my students.”

Teaching in Vietnam

Volunteer Denise with a VIDS student in Hanoi.

Reflecting on the relationships she formed with the students in the community, Denise says:

“My two weeks teaching in Vietnam went by all too quickly. While my trip was focused on teaching English to researchers at the Vietnamese Institute for Development Strategies, it is I who was the student. I learned so much about Vietnam from my students through informal conversations and visits to cultural, historical, and regional sites.

“I couldn’t imagine any place I wanted to be in the world today than where I was in Hanoi looking forward to meeting my students.”

I was even given a Vietnamese name by my students – Minh. My students were nothing short of incredible – warm, welcoming, optimistic, and enthusiastic learners. Beyond being “Team Denise,” they became my friends and I will always cherish the time we spent together. What I will miss is the eagerness and inquisitiveness of my students, the easy smiles and laughter shared with my students, and the exchanges of life experiences, travels, and thoughts with my students and volunteer team members.”

Teaching in Vietnam

Volunteer Denise teaching a Vietnamese student.

So did this experience change your life? Did you have an opportunity to wage peace through understanding?

“As an American professional woman of color, I have consistently accepted the burden of waging peace as a part of advancing cultural competency and understanding between cultures. Having the opportunity to share my lived experiences, self-esteem, strength, and comfort in being me with those of another culture, is a privilege. I equally value the shared experiences of others and the impact it has on my life. I value Global Volunteers commitment to developing genuine partnerships that melt barriers and create lasting bonds of friendship.Every experience I have living in another culture – for a week or year – teaches me to be more compassionate, patient, observant, and less judgmental. This experience was no different. The generosity of the Vietnamese people made an indelible impression on me, one that I will carry with me always.”


Teaching in Vietnam

Denise and volunteers, students, and the VP of the Vietnam Institute for Development Strategies (VIDS)

Learn more about teaching in Vietnam with Global Volunteers.

Visit our volunteering in Vietnam page to learn how you can teach conversational English to children and adults in schools and offices.  Teams are scheduled for one and two weeks throughout the year.

More posts by volunteers and staff:

Reasons to serve in Hanoi

Making a Difference in Vietnam

A Day as a Volunteer in Vietnam

Helping Peace Flourish Through Service

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