Vietnamese Undergraduate Students' Perceived Changes in Emotional Intelligence and Coping Strategies
An increasing number of mental health problems have been found in Vietnamese undergraduate students, including stress, anxiety, depression and suicide. One of the factors linked to increased mental health problems in Vietnamese undergraduate students is low emotional intelligence and a lack of coping skills. Emotional intelligence is involved in coping and problem-solving processes, reduces stress and has been found to improve physical and psychological wellbeing. Individuals who lack emotional intelligence experience more stress, have more mental health issues, lack adaptive coping skills and adopt unhealthy or risk-taking behaviours. Research demonstrates that many Vietnamese undergraduate students have difficulty adapting to changes, lack assertiveness and experience relationship instability. Their 7roblems also are thought to be partly caused by the pressures they experience while trying to adhere to social and cultural norms, which are strongly influenced by a mixture of value systems, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Socialism. The purpose of the present study is to explore the experiences of Vietnamese undergraduate students and their learning about emotional intelligence and coping strategies within Vietnam's social and cultural context. This research was conducted in the Vietnamese language. A descriptive qualitative study was used to explore participants' experiences of a programme designed to develop emotional intelligence and coping strategies. The participants were 21 undergraduate students aged 17–25 years old, living and studying in Hanoi. Audio diaries, interviews and cogenerative dialogues were utilised as data collection methods. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data and present the main findings. The study showed that participants used avoidance and emotional suppression to cope with stress and interpersonal conflicts. These strategies were culturally shaped and aimed at maintaining interconnectedness and social harmony but had negative consequences on their wellbeing. Participants’ self-reported changes indicated some improvement in their perceived coping ability and their emotional abilities that contribute to emotional intelligence. The programme helped participants develop their emotional literacy, awareness and understanding. These abilities enabled them to develop a broader range of problem-solving skills, emotional acceptance, and increased self-control, leading to their changes. This change was evidenced in participants reporting feeling more liberated, empowered, and autonomous. They also felt more confident in their problem-solving ability and had more control over stressful situations.