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Internship abroad: Removing taboos

A reproductive healthcare expert shares knowledge with students before their intern abroad
A reproductive healthcare expert shares knowledge with students before their intern abroad

Education & Times Newspaper - “I always feel sorry for students who fail to use the opportunity to advance their future” – Ms. Nguyen Thi Mai Thu, Deputy Director of the Center for International Training and Development of the University of Agriculture and Forestry (Thai Nguyen University) replied when being asked about her concerns at work.

For example, there is a fourth-year female student who became pregnant while interning abroad. She was forced to return home by our partner before finishing the internship program. Now, everything is unfinished for her…

Email from a male student: Teacher, my coworker wants to…love me!

The female student mentioned above was an excellent student with a bright future. Due to an unwanted pregnancy, she had to return home without any degree, wasting money and study efforts in the last four years.

Luckily, her boyfriend took the responsibility, married her and supported her in taking care of the baby. Recently, Ms. Mai Thu visited this student and saw the couple struggling to live together without a good, stable job. A miss is as good as a mile!

As a person in charge of the foreign internship program for students of the University of Agriculture and Forestry, Thai Nguyen in the last 10 years, Ms. Mai Thu has witnessed some very unfortunate cases.

The multicultural, international environment makes many students confused, they do not know how to reply to "very straight-forward" sex offers after a party, or male students are pursued by the third gender…Students write emails to share with teachers many dreadful situations, their stumbles, and ask for advice.

“Before sending students abroad for internship, we have organized training sessions on living conditions. To raise awareness of female students about gender, self-protection, safe sex, and sexual harassment, I have implemented a project on “Safe strategies for female students of the University of Agriculture and Forestry during the foreign internship”. –said Ms. Mai Thu

“I feel safer with a condom in my pocket!”

Under the foreign internship programs, the University of Agriculture and Forestry sends students in different periods of the year. When Ms. Mai Thu implemented her application project, the university was sending students to internship programs in Taiwan (China) and Japan in the first quarter of 2019.

Ms. Mai Thu has organized two training sessions for students, inviting experts to explain about gender and women's rights with a dedicated approach, making it easier for students to share sensitive issues.

After the training course, Ms. Mai Thu and her colleagues conducted the assessment, 100% of students rated the course as useful and 80% of students expressed confidence in dealing with gender issues when encountered abroad. Information about training sessions, video sharing of students are posted on the university website to spread knowledge about gender.

What makes her satisfied the most during the application project implementation is that she could organize the first training course for female students about gender and reproductive health care (RH) before their internship abroad.

Previously, the school organized a pre-departure briefing session for all students in the program, providing notes about the life and study abroad, but there was no intensive training on gender and reproductive healthcare for the students.

After this training, female students of the University of Agriculture and Forestry changed their views on how to protect their reproductive health.

As a sincere thank-you note by student Ma Thi Ha to teachers and experts before leaving for internship abroad: "I used to put condoms in my pocket and was very shy and embarrassed if someone knows. However, after this training, I confidently put condoms in my pocket. This is how I protect myself. After this training, I found a better understanding of gender and reproductive health care to protect myself when I undertake the internship abroad”.

Ms Nguyen Thi Mai Thu photographed with an expert and female students
Ms. Nguyen Thi Mai Thu (third from left) photographed with an expert and female students of the University of Agriculture and Forestry after the training session on gender and reproductive healthcare

One training course, two beneficiaries

For Mai Thu, knowledge about gender, gender prejudice, etc. is very new and different from her expertise. “I am fortunate to be nominated by the university for an Australia Awards Short Course - Women in Leadership Journey. I had opportunities to talk with experts from Vietnam and Australia, to learn new knowledge, take part in lectures, and meet people who overcame fate to succeed. In fact, the fellow participants – these resilient women who overcame difficulties in their lives - have inspired me to be stronger, more confident, persistent, and to do things with the deepest sincerity.” – shared Ms. Mai Thu.

Besides, her application project helps not only student to protect themselves but also lecturers of Nong Lam University to change their teaching approach and inspire students. 

Mai Thu herself also learns a lot from experts to involve people to her project, together with her fellow participants at the Australia Awards Short Course - Women in Leadership Journey.

In June 2019, gender experts at the Vietnam Women's Academy will train 150 students of the university before leaving for internship in Israel.

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“I used to be a conservative person. If I found someone keep a condom in their bag/purse, I would feel skeptical. But thanks to the expert’s approach, I changed my perception. In the future, if I see my child putting a condom in his pocket / purse, I knows that he can protect himself.” - Ms. Nguyễn Thị Mai Thu

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Source: Translation of an article on Education and Times Newspaper