Study Abroad is a series that explores the experiences, challenges, and lessons of Vietnamese international students.
Growing up in Hanoi, Lê Nam Thuận An’s access to the world was through TV series and cartoon shows. Fast forward to today, An Lê’s based in Ho Chi Minh City and is currently taking a gap year from studying Information Science/Media at Cornell University.
If you’ve been following the Vietnamese edition of Vietcetera, you may have seen An’s vlogs and podcast episodes on our social media platforms. With her viral video, An managed to land herself an intern role in the Creative Department, and now she’s officially joined as a Junior Creative staff.
When asked why she pursued the said program, she said it’s because her part-time job is related to social media, “so information science would help me understand the core technology behind content, algorithms, and societal impact of new media tools on our behaviors, and how we can use technology responsibly.”
On top of that, she’s taking film as her minor. It’s her way of pursuing her true passion incorporating the practical knowledge of her major.
In this week’s episode of Study Abroad, we met with An Lê, where she shared what encouraged her to study abroad.
“I think globally, many countries face similar challenges, such as protecting the environment, ensuring human rights for their citizens, and improving living standards for their communities. We can all learn from each other, so studying abroad helps me become exposed to the vast knowledge available to apply what I learned globally.”
From her daily routine and how she deals with challenges, here’s how An gets things done.
On her preparation before leaving Vietnam:
I’m quite a sentimental person, so I started my YouTube channel to connect more with my family and share my life abroad with them.
In terms of equipment, most schools prepare a list for you to pack your essentials. Most household items can be more conveniently bought when you arrive at your destination, such as bedding, mattresses, water filters, or sockets that match the standards of that country so I would bring just enough in my luggage.
On her daily routine:
I think this vlog summarizes it well.
On what keeps her going:
I hope to succeed in my field and eventually pay back to education because that is how I got all the opportunities I have today.
On staying connected to her family and friends in Vietnam:
I don't talk to my family and friends back home every day, but there's an underlying, unspoken connection that makes us feel very close whenever we open up. Genuineness is the most important element in my relationships. Hence, I’m grateful that even though we might not always talk, it’s a cozy and comforting conversation whenever we do.
On building relationships abroad:
No, most of my friends are non-Vietnamese because I also studied abroad for high school and have friends living all over the world in different countries.
On having an English name:
I don’t have an English name, but I am aware that there are companies with biases during the employment process that would prefer resumes with English names.
On the importance of nurturing creativity:
I’m an experimenter, so I love to try different things, especially if they are new, and I enjoy pursuing knowledge. I like doing (non-harmful) pranks on my friends and family to have a good laugh together. Other than that, I love journaling what I learn through videos, which is what I’m doing with YouTube.
On what she learned from studying abroad:
The biggest lesson is that the beauty of life lies in differences. The most enjoyable moments I’ve experienced studying abroad are when students from all different backgrounds can relate to similar issues they face at home in their country while sharing on a debate forum or just connecting in terms of personal values regardless of where they come from.
One such moment is a kiss between a Serb and Croatian student in UWC Mostar (another school branch in the United World College school system) during a parade despite the political differences in their countries against each other, proving that as humans, we can all connect and share empathy.
On how her outlook on life has evolved:
I expanded my perspective on success. Growing up in a competitive academic environment, I didn’t always see the joy of learning. After meeting many different people, I have more appreciation for the simple things I observe. I constantly remind myself that I am living as a citizen of the world, and every action I do in my life has a lasting impact.
On dealing with challenges:
Most schools abroad have counselors to help when we face challenges. In my high school, it was a free service that came with my insurance, so I’ve come to a few sessions when I needed mental support, and they were the kindest and most caring people. Some colleges charge for these services, so that they might be less accessible. However, in college, I can sometimes share my difficulties with professors and advisors, who ask me how I’m doing in my life and care about their students.
On her hopes for the future:
There are so many opportunities that it feels impossible to predict what I will do in 5-10 years. I hope to create an impact on the education system in Vietnam through charity, the impact of my work, community events, forums, or new methods. I’m grateful for the opportunities I got, and I would be fulfilled to contribute.