One day in early December, after a long flight from Paris to Australia en route to the Australian National University (ANU, the biggest University in Australia), we received a letter from Mr. Trong Hieu Nguyen, a student who received two Dong Hanh Scholarships and was an active DH member in Ho Chi Minh City. In this letter, he happily told us his good news of getting a full scholarship from ANU to continue with a PhD. I had the opportunity to meet him several times. On behalf of the Fund’s Board of Dong Hanh studies, I would like to share a very interesting conversation with Mr. Trong Hieu Nguyen and his professional progress.
Hello, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Trong Hieu Nguyen, born in 1989. I was an student at the Polytechnic School of Ho Chi Minh City, in the honours class for Electrical Engineering. I received a Dong Hanh Scholarship twice and was a member of the Dong Hanh Scholarship Fund in Ho Chi Minh City.
Mr. Trong Hieu Nguyen’s most impressive academic results:
- First prize in the Olympiad competitive exam at the provincial level and the third prize at the national level in mathematics.
- A score of 29.5/30 in the entrance exam to the Polytechnic University in Ho Chi Minh City in 2006, and again for the University of Medecine and Pharmacy in Can Tho.
- Was among the top 3 students in electrical engineering at the Polytechnic University in HCM and obtained a scholarship to spend his last two years of study in Oregon, USA.
- Graduated with an American diploma title of “Summa Cum Laude” (uppermost honors) with a GPA of 3.97/4.00.
- Obtained a full scholarship to complete a doctoral thesis at the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Sydney. He will continue with his thesis at the beginning of 2013.
When did you receive the scholarship to study? Were you happy and surprised when you did? How did you find out about this scholarship? Were you concerned when sending the application and did you think that you had a chance of receiving it?
I received it for the first time in 2006 and for the second time in 2007. When the good news arrived, I was really surprised and happy since it was the first time that I had received a donation from an association. At the beginning of my entry to the Polytechnic University of Ho Chi Minh City, there was an ad for this award displayed on the door of the education center that attracted me to the scholarship. As a new student, I was a little unsure of how to prepare a scholarship application due to my lack of experience. So, I did it without thinking that I would be selected and was surprised when I was given the scholarship during my first year.
How have you used the Dong Hanh scholarship?
As a student at the Polytechnic University in HCM, I was attracted by many other study-abroad scholarships available to excellent students, which offer study opportunities in England, the U.S, Australia, etc. I thought I could win one of these comprehensive scholarships so I decided to go abroad. However, my English level was not good enough to study plus during my third year in high school I learned mathematics, physics and chemistry to enter university. It was for this reason that I used my money from this scholarship to learn English.
The total amount of the scholarship was used for taking 3 English courses (the tuition fees at the language university aren’t too expensive). After about half a year I learned English at the A level and three months later at the B level. At that moment my English was pretty good so I started to learn the TOEFL to pursue my dreams.
It was the first scholarship that I received, and even if it wasn’t a large amount, in a way it has really encouraged me to effectively follow my chosen direction in life. Thanks to the hope that I received during the scholarship award ceremony, as well as letters of encouragement from Dong Hanh, I had the impression that I was never alone since my family was always next to me.
Are you in regular contact with members of Dong Hanh? Before receiving the scholarship, what did you think of it? Was there a big difference between what you originally thought and what you encountered during the scholarship experience?
Yes. During my time in the United States, because I was concentrating on studying, I had little time to exchange information. After I returned to Vietnam, I had the chance to meet with other members and to regularly talk about work and life with them.
Can you share your memories of Ho Chi Minh City with Dong Hanh?
During free time, we drank coffee, we chatted about heaven and earth, education, social development and politics. I was very happy!
Do you have more difficulties in life now?
Now my life is very good and I have a stable job. In two months, ANU will help me financially, with papers and everything, except that I find myself with a lot of academic work. I need to concentrate on my studies to continue working towards my diploma.
What is your desire now? And in 5 years? Could you share with us your long-term plan for the future?
In three years, I hope to complete the semiconductor materials doctorate in solar cells that I am working towards at ANU. Then I’ll try to obtain a post-doctoral research scholarship. Thus, I have two goals for the next 5 years. In the long term, I will continue my scientific dream of becoming a professor or researcher at a well-known university or research institute. After achieving my dream (I could be very old at that point…), I hope to have the opportunity to return to Vietnam, and to use all the knowledge and experiences acquired in my life to serve our country.
In your opinion, are there many students who are still experiencing very difficult conditions but with excellent capabilities to study abroad like you? Do you have any advice for them?
Yes, a lot. A majority of them are not lucky like me. I hope that they will obtain the financial support to achieve their dreams. I would like to send a message to these students: never abandon your dreams! A dream is the starting point for everything. If you really want something, be ready to do it! Prepare carefully and go step by step to make your dreams come true.
I know that you are an active member of Dong Hanh in Ho Chi Minh City, so in your opinion how can the association become stronger?
The members of Dong Hanh are only students at the National University. I think that it’s necessary to recruit members from other universities (technical, medicine, education, etc) in order to promote the Dong Hanh Scholarship program.
Since you are doing a doctorate at ANU, do you think that there’s a place for Dong Hanh in Australia?
Yes, more branches will enhance the image and effectiveness of Dong Hanh in order to spread and become better known. For the first time, in Australia, I will concentrate on just the idea of creating a branch if possible. I then hope to have the time to promote and develop the image of Dong Hanh in Australia.
In addition to your ongoing university responsibilities, if you were president of the university this term what other activities would you organize?
Since a majority of the Dong Hanh members are undergraduate and graduate students, they’re busy with studying and research. To be president of this organization is a big challenge for every member. It requires a lot of dedication, time and experience, so I don’t have a very clear idea of what else a president should do, but there is an idea that I find quite feasible: the expansion of the scholarship program to other universities in Ho Chi Minh City (human sciences, education, medicine, etc). I think that a majority of my school friends aren’t familiar with the Dong Hanh scholarship.
Would you like to send a message to our friends at Dong Hanh?
Thank you. I’m delighted to have met and worked with you. I hope that I have the chance to see you, my Dong Hanh brothers and sisters in France. In Vietnam, we have already met.
In short, the Dong Hanh committee once again thanks Mr. Trong Hieu Nguyen. The committee wishes you good health, much happiness and hopes that all of your dreams come true. Mr. Trong Hieu Nguyen’s history gives us confidence that our program is achieving its goal. We hope that Dong Hanh can continue to receive support from organizations, individuals and friends in the world to develop strongly, help more students and to have more and more success stories like Trong Hieu Nguyen.
Tran van Xuan
Translation: Murphy McAnulty