Blog Post

Looking Back and Beyond

written by Marikris de Guzman

When I heard about the Global Politics Seasonal School from a friend, I checked out the link to the website, filled out the application form and sent it to the organizers immediately. Upon receiving the news that my application was accepted, I booked my flight to Hanoi with great excitement. I love politics to the bones. I enjoy learning about politics realizing the important link between governance and politics to development and I believe that attending the Global Politics Seasonal School will definitely expand my understanding of and views on politics.

I traveled to Viet Nam a day before the start of the Seasonal School. I familiarized myself with the route to the school and from my friend’s house where I stayed during the entire course. We started the first day with an introduction of the Seasonal School by the organizers and proceeded immediately with a discussion of the New Approaches to Global Politics by Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers who is also the Director of the Center for Global Politics of Free University in Berlin.

First day of Global Politics Seasonal School in Hanoi, Vietnam with Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers of Center for Global Politics. (Photo from GPSS organizers)

From my observation, the course content of GPSS was carefully designed. I appreciate how the organizers put an emphasis on the European Union model in light of the impending ASEAN integration. This is very relevant for the people in ASEAN as there are lessons that can be learned and applied from the experiences of the European Union.

All the professors who were invited to teach in GPSS were experts in their respective fields. Dr. Bui Hai Dang made us understand how Asia perceives the European Union. Dr. Ognian Hishow show us that the economic cooperation in the European Union doesn’t come without a price. He illustrated to us that there are sacrifices and gains at the same time when a regional bloc decides to integrate. Dr. Stefan Engert discussed the security challenges in line with the regional integration of Europe while Prof. Pham Quangminh also talked about the security issues as challenge for regional integration. Painful historical lessons on Reconciliation Processes were also discussed by Dr. Wolfgang Form. Finally, Dr. Sothea Oum gave a thorough discussion on Economic Cooperation in the ASEAN context.

As it is, the learning modules have provided us greater knowledge on how economic cooperation and regional integration work, the challenges of such, and the lessons of history that are still relevant at present. Learning about how politics operate at a global level widened my horizon and taught me to look beyond the borders of my country and be more sensitive of the power dynamics in the bigger and higher level.

Political Simulation Game

On the last day of the Seasonal School, we played a political simulation game facilitated by people from Plan Politik (to know more about the organization, you may visit their website at http://www.planpolitik.de/en/index.htm). There was an imaginary scenario presented to us and we picked a role to play in the simulation game. There may be some political organizations in the Philippines which use political simulation games as a tool for teaching but it was my first time to experience it. For me, it was a unique experience as it made me realize the difficulties and realities of being a political actor or stakeholder. Decision making is a delicate task that requires intensive thinking, calculation, and foresight.

A visit at the German Embassy in Hanoi. (Photo by GPSS organizer)

GPSS as a Cultural Immersion

Studying in another country entails immersing in a different cultural context. Staying in Viet Nam for more than two weeks made me appreciate the richness of their culture and history. As it appears, motorcycle is the most common mode of transportation in Viet Nam. Only few cars can be seen on the road. My friend Hang whom I stayed with always brings me to the bus station in the morning using her motorcycle. Then I would take the bus alone and alight in the bus stop near the school entrance. After school, my classmates would take turns driving me home. I am really thankful for their hospitality and kindness. And never will I forget our motorcycle rides in the streets of Hanoi.

The cyclo is a three-wheeled vehicle often used by tourists and visitors when exploring Hanoi. (Photo by Sothea Un)

Food tripping is also a must when you visit a new place. I have tasted a variety of noodles such as Bun Tha and Pho, which I can’t pronounce properly until now. Of course I will not forget how the sweet dried fruits being sold in the streets taste like. I like some of the sour fruits even if I am not really a fan of sour foods. Then there’s also the famous ice cream stall beside the lake where I consumed two packs of ice cream.

Whenever I visit a new country, I always make it a point to visit a bookstore and buy a book with me about the country’s history or politics. This time, I bought a book by the great Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap. My classmates brought me to this five-storey bookstore and I was amazed seeing that most of the books even those that are imported were written and published in Vietnamese. There are few books that were written in English so the task of finding the book (in English) proved to be a challenge.

The organizers also brought us to the famous Halong Bay where we stayed for one night. A city tour was also organized and we visited different historical places. We also spent many nights walking beside the Hoan Kiem Lake located at the heart of Hanoi. The lake is also called the Lake of the Returned Sword. There are different stores and restaurants surrounding the lake. Most people sit by the lake at night. For those who would like to buy souvenirs, there are many stores that are parallel to the street near the lake. You can find different artworks and souvenirs there. Finally, I did not miss the chance to watch the water puppet show which is very famous in Hanoi.

I cannot help but appreciate the rich culture and history of Vietnam. Similar to the Philippines, Vietnam has a long history of colonization but nonetheless, they were able to preserve their tradition and culture.

My thanks and gratitude

As the Seasonal School ended, I only have my gratitude to all those who gave me the opportunity to participate in this very relevant and insightful program. Thank you to the organizers for the wonderful opportunity to learn, to my friend Pham Minh Hang for accommodating me, to my newfound friends, to my wonderful and smart classmates, my expert professors, and my family and friends who have always supported my endeavors. I highly recommend this program to those who would like to deepen and widen their knowledge on global politics.