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Huong’s Box Hill Institute of Tafe

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Huong went to Box Hill Institute of Tafe in early 2012 to study Business Management. And she really managed to pull out all the stops to start her life: her first uni experience.

It was the first time I’ve ever been on a plane and my first time going to Australia. I was very nervous. I didn’t know how to fasten my seatbelt, where the toilets were… My heart was beating so fast. Luckily, I stayed next to a person who knew KOTO very well and said he’ll help me out—he even changed his seat to sit next to me to show me around.

I have never been to another city in Vietnam, let alone so far away. Coming to Australia I got the culture shock and another big shock: I never studied as a ‘formal’ student and now I had to. Everything was so different. Not to mention the language barrier. One day, I simply thought that I won’t manage to pull this through. This was a place where everyone was so proactive whereas in my culture someone tells you what to do. Here, you tell people how you want to do it.

It was the first time I’ve ever been on a plane and my first time going to Australia. I was very nervous. I didn’t know how to fasten my seatbelt, where the toilets were… My heart was beating so fast.

Adapting to a new mind-set

I had to adapt to this mentality while working part-time in a five-star hotel, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, Australia. One time when I thought I couldn’t pass an exam, one of my teachers, Ros, gave us a writing assignment and called for everyone’s attention: my work was set as an example. Everyone was clapping. I was so shocked. It was such a big moment of encouragement that later on I kept thinking that, actually, I am not that bad after all, I can do this. It was a very, very powerful message that she sent me that day.

My course was supposed to go on for one and a half years, but since I really wanted to remain in Australia and do a full Bachelor’s Degree, the university invited me to become their international student ambassador and also gave me another scholarship. I took the scholarship for my studies but I also had to work for my day-to-day expenses. Ah, I remember my teacher calling for me and giving the big news: I was invited to become a Victorian Government’s International Student Ambassador; the first thing that popped into my mind was… is it paid for?. Luckily, I received two awards which sent me on a new scholarship path that helped me plan for my BA application. But then, every university that I applied for asked me to complete two additional years for the BA. I didn’t want that. I was set on studying only one more year.

My course was supposed to go on for one and a half years, but since I really wanted to remain in Australia and do a full Bachelor’s Degree, the university invited me to become their international student ambassador and also gave me another scholarship.

Meeting amazing people along the way

At Box Hill, I met one person whom I still regard to this day as my―Rosemary Fisher, who managed the Higher Education Department, she was the Head of Commerce. I remember going to her office―I was very nervous―and being shown around how the system works. She helped me out so much that she really became my mentor. She taught me one subject called Business Ethics and during her class―and other classes―I was always very active, I am a very practical person. She recognised this skill of mine so that one time when she marked one of my assignments, she only gave me 50% alongside a note next to it saying ‘come to see me as soon as possible’. I was incredibly nervous. I went to see her and the first thing she asked was what’s the story behind my marks. ‘I see two different people when I look at you in the class and you during the exams?’, she put it bluntly. She was right, my exams always had low marks.

Huong had never given up her dream of having an education.

[Rosemary Fisher, Head of Commerce and Sessional Lecturer at Box Hill Institute, Australia]

I opened up and told her about my background and my story, how I was forced to learn by myself and suddenly everything made sense to her.” Rosemary Fisher remembers the first time she met Huong: “When I first met her, I was very surprised. She was a scholarship holder from Vietnam so I expected the highest marks from her. Instead, at the end of semester she had very average marks, so I decided to investigate why a scholarship holder was not doing well – perhaps she was homesick, or struggling in some way.  Only then did I learn of Huong’s remarkable journey from the streets of Vietnam. Huong had never given up her dream of having an education.” Huong tells us how, from that meeting on, Rosemary “used to spend 30 minutes with me before each class to help me learn more.

I met so many people and I kept in touch with many of them. Box Hill was like a little family for me. The teachers there are so wonderful!

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