Coming from Vietnam, a small Asian country, I began to dream of studying abroad when I was a little girl in secondary school. I never thought that I could one day make it to Ireland. It took me 10 years to make that dream come true.
In the mindset of the fifteen-year-old girl, studying abroad at that time for me was something out of my reach. For a developing country like Vietnam, Europe in particular seemed to be a dreamland only for people with strong financial aid from their families. Things changed when I got to the second year of university and got to know a friend who made it to Australia thanks to a scholarship from the Australian Government. I realized that the opportunity to study overseas was not only for people from rich families. I started searching for scholarships from the governments of European countries offered to students from developing countries. I aimed at English
Speaking countries in Europe and even countries with courses taught in English such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway and Italy.
I made my very first application for a scholarship in the last year of the university. The first challenging step before applying to any scholarship is to get accepted for a specific course in the targeted university. Once you get the admission offer from the school, you then can apply for the scholarship with its own requirements of supporting documents and assessment process, including tough and competitive interviews with hundred of candidates across the country. Applying and failing, applying and failing many times for two years in a row made me so depressed and discouraged. However, the dream of studying abroad was so strong that I did not allow myself to give up. I gave myself a third chance when trying my best for the third year of application. Ireland finally smiled on me. I became one of 20 Vietnamese people who won the fully funded scholarships offered by the Government of Ireland to pursue the one-year Master’s programme in Management Consultancy in UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School.
The study program itself has been really enjoyable for me so far. The curriculum was constructed carefully, with wide-ranging course content. The chances to work with real client companies during the course have provided me with valuable hands-on experience and significantly strengthened my CV. Team assignments across different modules have built up my team work skills. Cultural differences in team-working styles have taught me valuable lessons of trust, adaptability, and sharing. The international experience during the course has profoundly shaped my vision to another level, developed my leadership qualities and extended my network with professionals in the industry. As the top business school in Ireland, Smurfit has proved itself to be an especially dynamic business school in terms of building a network with recruiters. All the graduate students including myself have therefore benefited from the opportunities to get up to date with the latest changes in the industry and meet and exchange information with the top employers through career fairs which are really useful for my future career.
At the moment, as part of my summer study programme, I am working as a consulting intern for Unipupil, an Irish start-up company. Unipupil is developing an education portal that brings the offline global education market online. I find the project very interesting as I can develop my consulting skills by working directly with a “real company” to solve their “real problems”. I personally think the business idea has great potential given it will help solve the problems of many students like myself, when looking for information to study abroad. Selecting a course and school to study in is the most important decision when studying overseas. There are a number of factors to consider before making the decision, such as the ranking and reputation of the school, the location, the tuition fee, the requirements for entrance, the cost of living in the city, the quality of courses and professors, the career potential after graduating, etc. Instead of having to do a lot of research from a number sources of information (like internet, studying abroad websites, consulting agents, study abroad fairs, education exhibitions, etc.), preparing all the required supporting documents for the school, sending the whole package abroad, tracking the journey of the package, waiting for the confirmation of the receipt, transferring the application fee and waiting for the result which took months for the whole process, the Unipupil portal will connect international students with educational institutions and education agents around the world and allow them to search, compare information, select courses, interact, sell and buy online in a transparent, efficient, cost effective and secure manner on a single platform. Although I’m only contributing a small part at an early stage of the project, I really hope that someday the business will expand and become a popular website as the “one stop portal” for all international students around the world.
I would say that this is the best year of my life ever. It is not just about the chance to study in the best business school in Ireland with a modern education system, but it is also about all the experiences I had while living here. Firstly, there is no better way to hone my English language skills than to dive right in. As an English-speaking country, studying in Ireland gave me the chance to completely immerse myself in English and practice it on daily basis. I gradually took in the new culture with its own unique food, music, customs, traditions and social atmospheres. Irish culture with its incredibly friendly and kind people meant that I never really experienced any kind of culture shock since coming here. In contrast, I really feel like this is my second home. The life experience during one year being away from home for the first time has trained me to become an independent person. I cooked my own food, managed my daily expenses, and made decisions for my own life. Instead of relying so much on the family, I am now responsible for my life and I have learned to care and share more with the people around me. From a shy girl, Ireland turned me into a confident person actively taking part in different social activities in the school and charity campaigns with the Vietnamese community in Ireland. I gradually built new lifelong friendship with international friends from different backgrounds. Through extra- curriculum activities in the school such as Vietnamese Culture Night, Smurfit “Strictly Come Dancing”, I was able to contribute to raise funds helping Irish and Vietnamese children. At the same time, I felt more adapted to the international environment. Studying abroad also gave me a chance to “see the world”. In one year living in Ireland, I not only had a chance to travel across the country but also to discover neighboring countries with different cultures and traditions. During the Christmas holiday or semester breaks, I spent time traveling with friends to other European countries, which has opened up a whole new world to me. The more I go, the more I learn. I found myself more mature along the roads.
I always feel grateful for what Ireland gave me. I am 25 now and have made one of my biggest dreams come true. As long as you have a dream and you never give up, everything is possible. No one knows what the future holds but I do believe that all the experiences I had while living here has laid a firm foundation for my future.
Thank you Ireland!