My name is Allana Pengilley and I am currently a 4th year Occupational Therapy Student at SCU, Gold Coast. At the conclusion of 2016 I ventured on my first overseas trip with a group of my fellow 3rd Year OT peers and Speech Pathology students to Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of the New Colombo plan scholarship. We went for a three-week placement to work with 120 children with varying disabilities due to the Agent Orange Chemical release during the war and around 50 Veterans of the Vietnam War living at ‘The Friendship Village.’
It’s safe to say I grew in so many ways from my experiences in Vietnam and I definitely came home with a whole new perspective on life and the way I now view my future profession. I was able to immerse myself in their culture, way of life, explore the wonders of Vietnam and had opportunities every day to apply concepts learnt during my degree in real life, everyday situations.
I had one particular interaction with a young woman named Nu which has significantly influenced my life and changed it so positively for the better. Nu has Autism and is non-verbal, but this definitely does not define her. Nu taught me in three short weeks that growth is possible in any situation, that you don’t need language to communicate, that any challenge you face can be overcome with perseverance and hard work and that love will guide you in whatever direction you are meant to be going. Trust your journey.
As a part of our placement we each had a project based on promoting health and wellbeing for the people living at The Friendship Village. The group I am part of has had the opportunity to design and is in the process of initiating building plans to create an outdoor rehab/playground space that meets the demanding sensory and physical needs of each child living at the village.
If you have the opportunity to go on a placement for your degree or study abroad, TAKE IT, it’s the best decision I made and I’m very grateful for the chance I had to be a part of this trip. It will be an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my career and life.