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VietNamNews

Gap years can offer youth passport to independence

Update: November, 16/2012 - 10:55

Next week:

Earlier this week, the Government issued a new decree on the production and trading of alcohol which will take effect from January 1 next year.

The decree, which aims to restrict the prevalent trading of alcohol in Viet Nam, specifies that all alcohol products, either produced domestically or imported from overseas, must be labelled. In addition, alcohol bottles must have specifications about their content and warnings about the harms of alcohol abuse on them.

The decree also regulates that within the area of a district or town, only one alcohol trading licence will be granted for retailers per 1,000 people.

What is your opinion of this new decree? How do you think it will benefit Viet Nam as a large consumer of alcoholic products, where problems such as drink driving pose a huge threat to public health?

Do you think the decree is strict enough to control alcohol abuse?

What do you think should be done to enforce the new law effectively?

Please reply by email to: opinion@vnsmail.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, November 22.

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about their experiences when taking a gap-year and their advice for young Vietnamese willing and wanting to take a year-out.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

Taking a gap year sounds good on paper, but it can also mean someone without an academic plan or a good job. However, with globalisation and technological changes, it's now possible to work from home or study on-line.

Take a trip, eat authentic ethnic food and write back to your family. Just make sure to get travel insurance!

Work overseas, volunteer or study abroad. Keep a journal or internet blog. Don't trust everybody. Sometimes you are a walking target. I have been robbed in Panama, Thailand, and sadly, also here in Viet Nam.

Have an action plan, a checklist and an end date. There is a danger of losing old friends and feeling uncomfortable in your own skin when you return home. After one year in Taiwan, my friends treated me like a movie star. Next trip back was five years later. I lost contact. I lost friends.

I think Viet Nam should assist students with formal exchanges within the ASEAN community. Trans-border work opportunities are opening up. Make the experience and the time count. Come back with a full passport, lots of stories and a new maturity.

I suggest getting a one year and one way only airplane ticket. That way you can't backtrack or hang out on a beach forever. You will get to go all the way around the world, and both you and your family will be sure of when you will start that job or university programme.

Rupali Samkaria, Indian, Sydney

Taking a gap year in Australia has brought me, a 22-year-old girl, many interesting and unexpected experiences. I have been living in Sydney for one and a half years. Luckily, I got a job as a software engineer with an Australian firm.

The best thing is that I have made a lot of friends. My social circle has grown and is more diverse with people from different nations. I have done extraordinary things, such as skydiving, diving and skiing, which I did not imagine, even in my wildest dreams when I lived in India.

I also spent time enjoying the most wonderful beaches, living in the villages of indigenous people, discovering the forests and faraway places of Australia. I took advantage of my holidays to the utmost and did not miss a second to try new things.

Living here away from home has made me independent. I have to make my own decisions. And no one else but me is responsible for what I do.

Those leaving their home country should be aware of where they are going and should have a little knowledge about the other culture. However, there can also be unexpected trouble.

I had to look for my own place to live, which was difficult as I did not know anyone. Also the life style here in Australia is totally different. For example, it is common to share flats and houses with members of the opposite sex in Australia. This is uncommon in my country.

For me, taking a gap-year was the turning point in my life. Initially, I just wanted to try something new in a completely strange country. But now, I am thinking about living in Australia permanently.

Nguyen Mai Trang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I love the idea of taking a gap-year to reach new places and learn about the world. Young people can learn about new cultures and make new friends. But they won't know unless they try.

I spent my whole summer with friends doing volunteer work in Ha Giang. In spite of difficulties, I had meaningful experiences because I not only helped others but also learned to understood more about the lives of ethnic people and the beautiful countryside they live in with its mountains, caves and lakes.

I now plan to do more volunteer jobs to gain more experiences. Then, I will apply to be a member of international volunteer organisations. It's my goal to help people in Africa and South America and discover new places at the same time.

I want my journeys to be useful for both myself and others. I will never take the risk of going somewhere and passively living there. I have no reason to be a wildcat if I can carefully prepare a programme.

Le Long, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

A lot of on-line forums praise those who have journeyed to faraway, mysterious, strange or adventurous corners of the world. These travellers sometimes write books on their adventures.

However, I wonder whether this approach is too ambitious. Is it a good idea for youth to travel to dangerous places if they have no experience?

One young author said she sometimes took few clothes on a long trip. So, her young readers learn nothing from her except a "devil-may-care" attitude.

I imagine that daring journeys can cause many worries for families. How do you think responsible parents feel when their children suddenly give up their studying, pick up their backpacks and go to places no-one has heard of?

I do not oppose journeys made by youth, because I have made them myself. But if students want to take a year out, they should spend a lot of time studying difficulties they might meet, such as running out of money, failing to apply for visas, being robbed or differences in culture.

They should get proper guidance from experienced people, not the ones who advised you to pick up a backpack and "let's go!" And they should learn enough life skills to deal with real situations. — VNS

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