Kiều Anh: What Is It Like To Start A Study Abroad Journey At 26? | Vietcetera
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Sep 13, 2023
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Kiều Anh: What Is It Like To Start A Study Abroad Journey At 26?

Nguyễn Ngọc Kiều Anh had to choose: a well-paying job or pursuing her dreams to study abroad. She opted for the latter, thinking it was “Now or never.”
Kiều Anh: What Is It Like To Start A Study Abroad Journey At 26?

At the age of 26, she set out to follow her dream. | Source: Kiều Anh

Meet Nguyễn Ngọc Kiều Anh, a Hanoi native with big dreams in the UK. Growing up in a close-knit family of five, Anh’s parents cared more about raising responsible and kind-hearted individuals than just academic success.

Anh’s journey into education began with a deep dive into literature during high school. Then, she unexpectedly switched to Finance and banking in college, attracted by its promising career prospects. After working for four years at a multinational e-commerce company, she discovered her passion for marketing and communications, combining her love for creativity and literature.

When the post-pandemic world offered a choice between a well-paying job and the appeal of studying abroad, Anh chose the latter, believing it was “Now or never.” At the age of 26, she set out to follow her dream. Initially drawn to Australia due to family ties, the UK’s academic excellence and rich artistic heritage ultimately won her over.

At Leeds Beckett University, Anh found the perfect opportunity to blend her passions. She pursued an MA in Public Relations and Strategic Communication, a course that promised practical experience in modern communication, including podcasting, blogging, and design.

For me, embarking on this solo journey abroad has been both challenging and incredibly rewarding.

Anh’s path to Leeds was paved with determination. She secured a 30% scholarship from the university and used her savings accumulated through years of hard work. Her family’s unwavering support was invaluable throughout her journey. In this week’s Study Abroad, Nguyen Ngoc Kieu Anh tells her story – a mix of ambition, gratitude, and an enduring commitment to personal growth.

On her preparation before leaving Vietnam

Upon resigning from my previous role, I took a six-month hiatus for personal growth and reflection. This period allowed me to deeply reconnect with my homeland, exploring its diverse landscapes and diving into cherished activities like volunteering and interactive art workshops. As I prepared for my journey abroad, I prioritized establishing solid arrangements and reinforcing old and new connections. Time with family and friends became invaluable.

As a parting tribute, I indulged in Hanoi’s culinary delights, a delightful gastronomic farewell I’d recommend to anyone looking for a new adventure.

On her daily routine

In my Master’s program, much of the learning hinges on self-directed study, with formal on-campus sessions totaling just 10-12 hours each week. This dynamic is even more pronounced during my summer term, as my thesis takes center stage during the weekdays, and my weekends cater to my part-time job.

As an early bird, I’ve modeled my study routine akin to a 9-to-5 job, fostering both discipline and consistency. My mornings, commencing at 8, are reserved for a brief yet invigorating set of rituals: yoga, meditation, and a hearty breakfast. By 9, I dive into my core academic tasks, aiming to accomplish the bulk by early afternoon. The subsequent hours are more relaxed, filled with reading, blogging, or listening to podcasts. Come 6 pm, I wind down, transitioning into an evening of leisure, dinner, and rest, usually retiring by 11 pm.

This balanced routine not only supports my scholarly endeavors but ensures my well-being, providing an anchor as I chart my solo journey abroad.

On what keeps her going

My drive to maximize my time abroad is deeply rooted in a quest for personal growth and self-betterment. I see this journey as an invaluable opportunity to nurture my potential, combining introspection with self-kindness, all while savoring the present. Additionally, my parents, especially my father, play a pivotal role in fuelling this motivation. His heartfelt messages, advising self-care, stress relief, and enjoyment of the UK summer, consistently resonate with me. These words warm my heart and fortify my resilience as I navigate the complexities of living abroad.

Moving away from home for the first time allowed me to gain a deeper empathy and connection with my beloved family.

On staying connected to her family and friends in Vietnam

To be honest, I don’t communicate daily with my family and friends. My routine involves weekly video calls with my parents and siblings and monthly catch-ups with my closest friends. Yet, the strength and quality of these relationships are undeniable. I’m immensely grateful for this steadfast support system, always available with a helping hand in challenging times. Their enduring support is invaluable to me.

On building relationships abroad

My guiding principle is to engage with everyone through genuine kindness and sincerity, believing it paves the way for meaningful relationships, transcending gender, race, or creed. As an introvert abroad, I methodically cultivate my social circle, prioritizing quality over quantity. I seek individuals with aligned values and interests, ensuring deeper connections. Though these bonds differ from lifelong ones back home, I’ve found invaluable support. My tight-knit circle in the UK comprises fellow Vietnamese, cherished classmates from diverse nations, and some supportive local colleagues from my part-time job.

Exposing myself to a multinational and diverse environment expanded my horizons and taught me the importance of respecting differences.

On having an English name

I cherish being addressed as Anh, my given name and a core facet of my identity. There’s a special joy in hearing foreigners try to pronounce it, even if it occasionally comes out as Annie or Anne. These earnest attempts and playful mispronunciations enrich my interactions with diverse cultures and underscore the warmth of our exchanges.

On the importance of nurturing creativity

Creativity is deeply woven into my being, influencing much more than just my work. I hone this innate talent through cooking, writing, drawing, and multimedia creation. Travel, nature, and enriching conversations amplify my creative instincts and broaden my worldview. Echoing a sage sentiment, “Open minds lead to open doors,” and this ethos resonates deeply within me.

On what she learned from studying abroad

Tết CAThering with VietSociety Leeds in Jan 2023

Being abroad has heightened my reverence for my Vietnamese heritage in unexpected ways. Though it might sound like a common sentiment, the distance has only deepened my connection to home. Today, I wear our rich Vietnamese traditions, from our unique attire to our delectable cuisine, as badges of honor, sharing them enthusiastically with my international peers. However, I’ve come to understand that the true essence of a nation is reflected in its people.

Every Vietnamese living abroad becomes a beacon, illuminating that Vietnam isn’t defined solely by pho or its historic conflicts; it’s a tapestry of resilient individuals, stunning landscapes, and promising economic prospects.

On how her outlook on life has evolved

Taking the journey abroad alone has deeply touched my heart. Every day, away from my family, I’ve faced the challenge of caring for myself, handling school and work, and adapting to a different culture. There have been times when I’ve felt overwhelmed, but every moment has been a lesson in growth and strength. Studying away from home has pushed me out of my comfort zone, encouraging me to follow my dreams with more heart than ever before. Nguyen Phi Van once shared in a podcast how vital it is for young Vietnamese to experience life overseas, not just for personal growth but also to bring Vietnam closer to the world’s heart.

On dealing with challenges

At 27, despite my independence, the ache of homesickness was unexpected. To soothe this feeling, I journaled and meditated, which allowed me to process my emotions. Cooking familiar Vietnamese dishes also brought a comforting slice of home. The challenge grew when I lost my grandmother. It happened during a busy exam period, and the distance from my family felt even faster. I was overwhelmed with longing to be by their side. But amidst this sorrow, the friends I’ve made here became my pillars. They offered comfort, from shared meals to kind words, showing me warmth and understanding in my most challenging moments.

My determination to make the most of my time abroad is driven by a strong desire for personal growth and self-improvement.

On her hopes for the future

In the next 2-3 years, I aim to become a senior PR practitioner at a prominent PR agency in the UK or EU, honing my expertise and playing a central role in significant campaigns. Long-term, my corporate experiences have ignited my ambition to be a solopreneur. I see myself crafting a unique venture anchored on my distinct skills. My current pursuit of studies abroad is a vital step in this journey, providing me with broader perspectives, international insights, and a foundational global mindset, all of which are crucial for my envisioned entrepreneurial success.

This or That

Movies or books?

While movies once captivated me, books have now taken their place. Reading offers a more profound engagement, letting me absorb information more profoundly. It grants my imagination the liberty to soar and allows my thoughts to meander freely.

Cats or dogs?

Cats. I’m a cat person.

Fresh juice or smoothie?

Homemade fresh juice.

Shopping in-store or online?

Window shopping in-store but online purchase. Why not. We are living in the world of e-commerce and social commerce ;)

Instagram or Twitter?

Instagram for sure

Give a speech or write a paper?

50-50. I love writing, but direct speaking is better in many circumstances.