Trevor Schwartz, a current SEI student, began his travels abroad in January 2020 with the intention of eventually arriving in Nepal to participate in a GRID Alternatives volunteer solar PV installation at a health center in the Jumla district. But after traveling around Southeast Asia during the months of January and February, COVID-19 struck, forcing him to stay in Hue City, Vietnam for an extended period of time.

Easily adapting to the lifestyle, Trevor acquired multiple jobs teaching English while learning the Vietnamese language and how to ride a motorbike around the city. He also had the opportunity to experience how solar PV providers in Vietnam operate. After creating a connection with a local solar PV provider, he participated in their business processes, which included: site analysis, contract signing, system design, selling wholesale and participating in an entire solar PV installation at a cultural center. Speaking of the experience, Trevor said: “It was eye opening – I witnessed how their practices differ from standard business and installation practices in the US. Nonetheless, it was a positive experience, and the solar energy market in Vietnam seems to be growing rapidly with a lot of potential. I was fortunate to be taking online courses with SEI during this time, and was able to share some information I had learned with the employees of the solar PV company in Hue”.

SEI’s online training and work-trade program have provided Trevor with the flexibility to learn overseas and take part in solar energy projects in the developing world, all while working remotely. Trevor is not new to the NGO solar sector, having volunteered with Johnny Weiss as his Executive Assistant, helping to build the capacity for ongoing solar energy projects with the Tanzania-based NGO, Rural Community Support Organization (RUCOSUO). Trevor assisted in grant research and writing for RUCOSUO, moving projects forward and assisting in their search for funding and support for their many ongoing activities, all while creating an infrastructure to successfully secure future funding.

Having recently completed PVOL101 and PVOL203 during his time abroad, Trevor intends to continue his education at SEI and hopes to eventually work with solar NGOs like SEI or GRID Alternatives, with the goal of increasing energy access to those who need it the most. In the meantime, he is traveling around northern Vietnam on a motorbike, staying with a friend in Hanoi, but plans to eventually return to his ‘second home’ in Hue and the many connections he’s made there.

SEI’s online training effectively provided Trevor with the flexibility to adventure and learn solar at the same time. No matter where you live or how adventurous your life may be, SEI’s Online Campus provides you with valuable training anytime, anywhere.

Pictured above is a 5kw solar PV installation at a cultural center in Hue, Vietnam (June 2020).