Student - August 14, 2014

‘I had to see all the wedding photos’

Who? Janna de Geus
What? internship as a consultant at Fresh Studio
Where? Hanoi, Vietnam

‘I owe my internship in Vietnam to Gert Spaargaren, professor in the Environmental Policy chair group. He helped my father, an arable farmer, with the harvest. When I said I had to find an internship he told me he was supervising a PhD student who works in Hanoi. That’s how I ended up at the consultancy bureau Fresh Studio.
I am working on a project in which farmers are helped to improve their harvests and their health. Many farmers suffer from an iron deficiency because they eat nothing but their own crops. In our project we look into good ways of getting potatoes on the market, because they are full of iron. The atmosphere in the company is relaxed. In a lot of companies there is a strict hierarchy, but it’s not bad at all here. I think my Vietnamese colleagues are proud of that.
I am staying in the Tay Ho neighbourhood, which is on a big lake in the middle of the city. So I see a lot of everyday life in Vietnam. Once I was just having a bowl of noodles early in the morning when a woman invited me in for tea. Very proudly she showed me all her children’s diplomas and wedding photos, and all the holiday snaps as well. That was a great experience.
There are no long lie-ins here. In the street behind my house there is a loudspeaker which plays the national anthem every morning at seven o’clock, followed by the news and then another song. When I asked my supervisor what that was all about, the answer was: “Welcome to the social republic of Vietnam!” The communist ideology of the country is reflected in the meeting for farmers that Fresh Studio organizes as well. There are two female civil servants present to check that nothing ‘inappropriate’ is said.

I have also been to a traditional wet market, by scooter. That is an incredibly colourful and lively spectacle. The government wants to ban these markets, where most of the trade is in local fresh produce. But the people protest strongly against that.’