The DCU access programme is an integral part of the college community, benefiting hundreds of students every year through its initiatives and action plans. As a soon to be DCU graduate I can proudly say how fortunate I am to be part of the DCU Access Programme and how grateful I am for every opportunity they have directed my way. One incredible opportunity came in the form of an email relating to the EIL intercultural learning Programme. EIL Explore is a programme that supports participants with an interest in global issues to travel abroad for the purpose of volunteering, cultural immersion, or language education through a variety of awards. It is an organisation aiming to spread awareness and initiate action towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs) introduced by the United Nations. SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. EIL offer many different travel scholarship awards such as Access, Global Awareness Programme, Youth Activist and many more which all have a primary focus: SDGs. As an EIL Access Travel Award recipient, I was awarded a two month cultural immersion and language education programme in Hanoi Vietnam, all of which my flights, accommodation, food and vaccinations were paid for for the duration of my trip. Insane. Travel opportunities like this don’t just happen. It takes initiative, drive and good luck. However, as my father always says, “hard work always initiates good luck, luck happens because of your work ethic”. A statement that is definitely true for this circumstance.


After reading the email an internal drive was sparked within me. I contacted my Access coordinator and arranged a meeting to discuss the application process for EIL. My Access coordinator was so welcoming and helpful, she nominated me as a candidate and sent my application off to EIL for review.  A few weeks later I received an email to say I had been one of the candidates shortlisted for an interview. After a day of interactions with all the prospective candidates for the different travel awards and a final round interview process, I left Marino College content knowing I couldn’t have given a truer account of myself and my aim for the cultural immersion projects. A few weeks later, the morning of my 21st birthday, I received confirmation that I had been one of the lucky candidates selected to participate in a language education programme in Hanoi, Vietnam. Officially the best birthday present I have ever received.


My final weeks at home zoomed passed and suddenly the night before travelling I was faced with the idea of embarking on a journey to faraway and very foreign land all alone. You start to doubt whether or not you are prepared for the challenge, whether or not you have the courage necessary to survive as a solo traveler. My one clichéd advice for any traveller is to overcome your fears  because the experience that awaits you is so amazing and indescribable that in retrospect, you will kick yourself for ever doubting your own ability. The next day I left Ireland and landed in Vietnam. My expectations could only be described as being similar to a blank canvas. Over the past 2 months I have interacted with Vietnamese locals, engaged in the Vietnamese customs, eaten Vietnamese street food, travelled and explored amazing cities and rural villages, became a moped addict, learned how to (badly) use chopsticks, and also realised how truly amazing discovering the unknown can be. But perhaps the most rememberable interaction of all was sharing my Irish culture with the locals by coaching gaelic football and hurling, playing Irish instruments such as the tin whistle and teaching locals how to Irish dance. Teaching English in Hanoi has been such an enjoyable, rewarding and insightful experience and I feel so grateful to have been part of such an amazing project. With its fascinating history, gorgeous landscapes, tasty food and vibrant energy, Vietnam will awaken all your senses and draw you in with its chaotic charm. Living in Vietnam feels like an incomparable experience to anything I’ve ever done before. The best is to expect nothing and just enjoy the thrill, serenity, and craziness of it all.


Teaching English in Vietnam has been a once in a lifetime experience and the outcome of this adventure will mould my perspective on all my future endeavors.  As a newly qualified secondary school teacher in Ireland, a sustainable development goal which I am drawn to is ‘quality education’ which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all. This adventure has deepened my understanding of the sustainable development goals and how action projects at home can impact immensely on spreading awareness and initiating action towards the achievement of these goals. I intend on taking my new found understanding of cultural diversity into my  profession as a teacher and hopefully inspiring young people to become advocates of change in their local communities. “If each of us just did a few things to bring about positive change on Earth, we can achieve something spectacular”.

About the Author:

Name: Annie Stafford
Age: Over 18
Explored: Vietnam