Studying abroad offers a transformative experience that has the potential to profoundly impact an individual's life. Twenty-two-year-old Ngô Lan Nhi, a recent Communication graduate from HAN University of Applied Science in the Netherlands, is one such individual who has reaped the benefits of earning a degree from a foreign country. “Studying abroad allowed me to meet people from all over the world, learn about their cultures, and form lifelong connections,” says Nhi.
Nhi grew up in Hànội, where she spent her childhood engaging in various extracurricular activities, reading comic books, and watching cartoons. Her personal favorites include Detective Conan and Doraemon. Even as a kid, she already knew the path she wanted to take: to pursue a degree in communication. “I knew that I am a creative, gregarious, and energetic person, so I would fit in with an innovative and fast-growing field that allows me to constantly improve my thinking to come up with new ideas.”
Nhi chose the Netherlands as her study destination due to its affordable living expenses and welcoming culture. Her experience living and studying in the country for four years has been nothing short of exceptional. “The Netherlands is a very open and welcoming country, and I felt very supported by the local people around me,” she said. She has developed a strong affinity for the open-mindedness and supportiveness of the Dutch people.
Nhi's journey to studying abroad was fueled by her exposure to different cultures and her innate desire for international exposure. “I have always known that I wanted to study abroad because I like an international and diverse environment, like meeting new people from different cultures, speaking English, and living independently,” says Nhi.
From dealing with homesickness and keeping her passion for writing alive to making friends with the locals, here’s how Nhi gets things done.
On her preparation before leaving Vietnam:
Just like other students, I bought lots of things I could bring to my second home – local food and winter clothes, among others. I was so excited to see the snow and make a snowman, just as people usually do in the movies.
On her daily routine:
My days were most hectic and bustling when I interned at Jacobs Douwe Egberts and studied 3rd year simultaneously. Because of the health restrictions, I could work from home, but that didn’t change my responsibilities. I usually met with my manager in the morning and completed some administrative tasks afterward. Then, I spent the whole afternoon managing social media projects I was assigned to and had a few meetings with the local markets.
When I had spare time and my days weren’t full, I would use that to write assignments at school. At night, I continued to work on my study load and started to write a manuscript as I dreamed of publishing a book during my youth. It was such a hard time balancing studying, working, and handling my things.
On what keeps her going:
My curiosity and desire to become wiser and more knowledgeable fuel me to keep working and studying. Fortunately, I had a chance to work with extraordinarily intelligent and visionary colleagues whom I learned a lot from and who trusted me to lead large-scale projects and were willing to give me insightful advice whenever needed. They encouraged me to ask questions, take courses to gain knowledge, and take a break from work to recharge myself.
Seeing what they have achieved in their lives and their stories about starting up their businesses and traveling around the world broadened my mind and gave me confidence in my ability to attain considerable accomplishment. Other factors that inspire me a lot are movies and books.
On staying connected to her family and friends in Vietnam:
Despite my busy schedule, I tried to call my parents every weekend. I tell them what I did during the week and asked how their work and life went. Besides that, sometimes I call my friends to catch up. The call usually lasted two hours as we had many things to share. In the end, I realized that my family and friends in Vietnam are the ones who understand me the most.
On building relationships abroad:
My friends are mostly Vietnamese and Asian because I find it easier to talk to them and deepen the connection. Perhaps this stems from our cultural background, including mindset, norms, and practices is similar. For instance, I used to celebrate Lunar New Year with my Chinese roommate, as this is a special day in both Vietnam and China. We made spring rolls together and some other local dishes. Or when I had difficulty raising my voice in class, they were the ones I came to first because I knew they had the same experience as me and probably could give me a solution from an Asian perspective.
I also have a few Dutch friends who are always happy to walk me around different cities, help me with local papers and bring me the latest information about what is happening in the country. Whenever the Dutch train system gets disrupted, they always notify me before I read online newspapers to get the news. They made me feel that even though I was not born here, I could always count on them.
On having an English name:
I think it does not matter as my international friends still call me ‘Nhi.’ Perhaps it is an easy Vietnamese name to pronounce. I also think keeping my Vietnamese name has allowed me to demonstrate my identity and pride in my Vietnamese roots.
On the importance of nurturing creativity:
My passion is to publish a book, and I have always wanted to raise my voice and share my perspectives on different aspects of life with storytelling.
As an imaginative and creative person, I have always had a myriad of fantasies and characters in my mind, so writing fiction is a perfect way to pull out all those things. Being able to write ‘Radio Yêu Thương’ novel is such a big and memorable milestone in my study abroad journey that I will forever keep it in my heart to remind myself of how brave and daring I used to be and will continue to be.
On what she learned from studying abroad:
My first lesson is not to be afraid to raise your voice. I used to be a carefree person who did not think much about having my own opinions and letting those be heard. I preferred to go with the flow and listen to everything people said. Until I studied in the Netherlands, where individual identity and voices are highly valued, I started to reflect on myself and on the experiences I had.
After understanding myself better, I took small steps to let myself be known by asking others’ questions and then adding my thoughts. This approach really worked for me as it allowed me to hear what others think and say what I want to say simultaneously.
Moreover, thanks to the fact that Dutch people communicate very straightforwardly regardless of compliments or feedback, I am more confident in showing my viewpoints no matter what kind of responses I receive.
The second lesson is to be daring to dream big and think big. Because I am exposed to different cultures, people, and stories, I realize that everyone has a dream to be fulfilled. One could dream of starting a business in the media and entertainment field; another could dream of becoming a scholar; another could dream of building a food franchise. The dream they tell might sound impossible at first, but it is a compass that guides their actions and makes their lives feel more lively and meaningful. That’s why I want to write a book to share my thoughts. That’s why I want to compose music to heal people through melody. That’s why I want to open a business to provide jobs for unemployed but potential people.
On how her outlook on life has evolved:
After four years studying abroad, I have become more open-minded about differences in others’ backgrounds and ways of thinking, more daring to gain social and intellectual experiences no matter how hard they are, and more desired to devote myself to making something tangible that can be helpful and meaningful for certain communities.
On dealing with challenges:
One of my biggest challenges is getting used to being alone. Back in Vietnam, I had my parents and different groups of friends around, so I was constantly conversing with someone I was familiar with. But when I lived in the Netherlands for the first few months, I did not know too many people or know interesting places to go to, so I had lots of time on my own. At that time, I felt bored, lonely, and even suffocated when staying in my bedroom. So what I did was start reading Chinese romantic novels and writing journals about how my days went or what I was thinking recently.
On her hopes for the future:
After I graduated, I am now spending some time in Vietnam to reconnect with my family and friends and taking a break after my 2-year internship. I also started to pick up new hobbies such as playing guitar, singing more professionally, writing a basic film script, and learning new business skills.
In 5-10 years from now, I want to have my own business in media and entertainment and be able to produce a blockbuster movie about first love inspired by my real story.
This or That
Movies or books?
Fresh juice or smoothie?
Shopping in-store or online?
Instagram or Twitter?
Give a speech or write a paper?
Give a speech