Đức Ngô: Nurturing Independence, Embracing Diversity In My Study Abroad Adventure | Vietcetera
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Jan 31, 2024
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Đức Ngô: Nurturing Independence, Embracing Diversity In My Study Abroad Adventure

In this week’s episode, we’ll introduce Ngô Lê Anh Đức, a Hanoian thriving as a structural engineer and entrepreneur in Helsinki.
Đức Ngô: Nurturing Independence, Embracing Diversity In My Study Abroad Adventure

Source: Đức Ngô

Meet Ngô Lê Anh Đức, a 25-year-old from the lively city of Hà Nội. Growing up in a traditional Hanoian family, Đức’s childhood was shaped by strict values, influenced by his father’s commitment to time-honored principles.

In the competitive Vietnamese education system, where entrance exams were the norm, Đức not only excelled but developed resilience and a strong work ethic. In 2016, driven by a desire to explore the world, he headed to Helsinki, Finland, taking advantage of the last year of tuition-free education.

Completing his studies in 2021 as a structural engineer, he is now immersed in a challenging Master’s program at Aalto University, Finland – a pursuit that enhances his expertise and aligns with Aalto’s reputation as the top university in the country. Balancing academics with part-time roles as a structural engineer and entrepreneur, Đức embodies the spirit of a global learner, embracing challenges and leaving his mark on the international stage.

On his preparation before leaving Vietnam

Emotionally, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness at 18, envisioning newfound freedom but facing the reality of solitude in a foreign land. The contrasting emotions created a thrilling yet somewhat scary experience. On the material front, receiving a new phone, laptop, clothes, and shoes added to the anticipation. Stepping into the unknown brought palpable excitement and a touch of trepidation, making it a memorable and transformative moment.

On his daily routine

Đức Ngô (on the right) | Source: Đức Ngô

Embracing the daily cadence, my morning commences with the awakening ritual, complemented by the soothing embrace of Vietnamese coffee. The ensuing journey to work or study sets the tone for a day filled with diligent efforts and entrepreneurial pursuits. A visit to the gym provides a rejuvenating interlude, marking a conscious commitment to well-being. As evening descends, a flavorsome dinner becomes a moment of reflection, followed by a leisurely dose of international sitcoms or movies, wrapping up the day with a touch of global entertainment before surrendering to a restful night's sleep.

On what keeps him going

Driven by a relentless ambition, my life is a pursuit of meaningful achievements. The hustle is my companion, and I disdain the thought of squandering time. Setting goals for myself, milestones to conquer by the time I reach 20, 25, and 30, fuels my sense of purpose. The journey is my classroom, where I glean invaluable lessons that excite and propel me forward. Stagnation is not an option – I crave perpetual motion, a continuous learning cycle, and a commitment to living life to its utmost potential.

On staying connected to his family and friends in Vietnam

My bond with my family, especially my mom and dad, is exceptionally strong. Daily conversations with my mom revolve around the minutiae of life, providing a comforting connection. In contrast, discussions with my dad delve into weightier subjects such as business, philosophy, politics, and finance, offering a profound exchange of ideas. As I navigate through the journey of life, the insights gleaned from these conversations become increasingly valuable. Growing older has deepened my understanding and appreciation for my parents’ wisdom, turning our dialogues into a source of continual learning and enrichment.

On building relationships abroad

Đức Ngô (in the middle) with his foreign friends | Source: Đức Ngô

Embrace openness and break free from the confines of your comfort zone. During my time abroad, I discovered the fallacy of common sense. Hailing from a traditional family in Hanoi, I initially believed that certain norms must be strictly followed. However, this proved to be a misconception. The world is a tapestry of diversity—varying cultures, foods, religions, upbringings, and languages. Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds shattered preconceived notions, leading to a paradigm shift in my thinking. The realization that there is no universal “normal” fosters a broader perspective and enriches personal growth.

On having an English name

I use my Vietnamese name to honor my parents and stay connected to my roots. English names can sometimes dilute our originality. My name, Duc, might sound unfamiliar to foreigners, but that gives me a chance to share the story behind it—what it means in Vietnamese and why my parents chose it. While I could go by a more universal English name like Duke, it doesn't capture my original name’s cultural richness and personal significance.

On the importance of nurturing creativity

In vibrant connections, passions, and hobbies become shared threads that weave a rich tapestry with friends. The notion of solely focusing on studies and returning home feels lackluster, potentially paving the way for ennui and bouts of melancholy. Cultivating a life beyond academia not only wards off these feelings but also emerges as an enjoyable avenue for effortlessly forging new friendships.

On what he learned from studying abroad and how his outlook on life has evolved

Embarking on independence through studying abroad pushes me to learn how to handle things independently and cultivate a sense of calm. Embracing openness to diversity, there is a wealth of knowledge to gain when I have no preconceived notions about others. I often discover the most from individuals with whom I share no commonalities.

Source: Đức Ngô

As I mentioned, I place things within the context of common sense and stereotypes, which are typical of Vietnamese culture. Engaging with diverse individuals worldwide leads me to a paradigm shift, realizing there is no universal common sense. This experience encourages me to learn and grow by accepting and embracing the richness of diversity.

On dealing with challenges

The extent of homesickness often hinges on whether one is an extrovert or an introvert. I identify as a wholehearted extrovert, which has mitigated my homesickness considerably. Surrounded by my close friends and supported by a fantastic girlfriend, I've found a comforting sense of connection that lessens the pangs of longing for home.

On his hopes for the future

As a serial entrepreneur, I want to operate as both a restaurateur and the owner of a brewery in Vietnam. Each venture reflects my commitment to crafting distinctive experiences in the dynamic Vietnamese business landscape, contributing to the local entrepreneurial spirit.

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