Strengthening families in need from Hanoi to Halifax

Globalink Research Intern at Dalhousie University is improving family well-being at home and abroad

Hanh Phuc Nguyen is a Business English student at Foreign Trade University in Hanoi, Vietnam. She hadn’t considered going abroad as part of her education, but discovering the Globalink Research Internship online prompted a change of heart: “I wasn’t confident about travelling abroad and hadn’t even thought about coming to Canada. But once I learned about Globalink, I knew I had to apply!”

With a volunteer background with non-government organizations and psychology, Hanh Phuc was matched with a project at Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre’s Centre for Research in Family Health. Her project has two components.

The first component compares the use of physical punishment in both Canadian and Vietnamese families and the reasons why families use this method of discipline. Hanh Phuc and her supervisor Dr. Patrick McGrath are developing a self-reporting tool that asks parents to identify their reasons for using corporal punishment. Hanh Phuc says that it happens less in Canada than in Vietnam, where decades of conflict provide important cultural insights. Ultimately, the information gathered will help researchers and families identify alternative, potentially less damaging forms of discipline for their children.

The second component of the project sees Hanh Phuc getting trained as a coach for Strongest Families, a distance treatment program for families requiring mental health care for their children. Once her training and internship are complete, she’ll return to Vietnam to help implement a Strongest Families pilot and determine its feasibility for use in her home country.

Hanh Phuc sums her Globalink experience in one word: “Amazing!” But she’s happy to elaborate: “I love doing research, so this has been great. And working with so many people from different cultures has helped my skills.” With the help of a bicycle on loan from her supervisor, Hanh Phuc has had the chance to explore Halifax in a new way: “In Vietnam, I don’t often walk due to the heat and humidity. The sidewalks are often reserved for motorcycles, so pedestrians end up on the road, which isn’t always safe. Here in Halifax, I can bike or walk to wherever I need to go. It’s been my favourite aspect of the experience.”

After working with Strongest Families, Hanh Phuc aims to return to Canada. “I would love to come back for higher education!” she enthuses. In the meantime, she’s using her experience to help future Globalink Research Interns: “I’ve already posted on Facebook about my Globalink experience — how great it is and what it offers. Junior students are asking me for help with applications, so I’m going to share my advice with them.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia for their support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

Mitacs is pleased to work with international partners to support Globalink, including Brazil’s le Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, the China Scholarship Council, Campus France, India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, and Mexico’s Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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