Le Viet Tan Phat: Bridging Cultures, Building Dreams While Studying Abroad | Vietcetera
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Feb 21, 2024
CultureStudy Abroad

Le Viet Tan Phat: Bridging Cultures, Building Dreams While Studying Abroad

In this week’s Study Abroad episode, Le Viet Tan Phat shares his student life journey in Japan — detailing how he prepared, his biggest takeaways, and his hopes for the future.
Le Viet Tan Phat: Bridging Cultures, Building Dreams While Studying Abroad

Le Viet Tan Phat’s journey is not just a narrative; it’s an inspiration and the pursuit of dreams against all odds.

Vietnamese students are making waves in the global education arena, seeking opportunities beyond their home country. The 2024 Key Trends in Southeast Asia report by Acumen, an international education consultant, sheds light on this trend, revealing that Vietnam boasts a substantial number of outbound students – 132,000, to be exact.

Japan stands out as the top choice among Vietnamese students, with over 44,100 choosing it as their academic and cultural destination. Now, let’s focus on one individual who represents this trend – Le Viet Tan Phat. Coming from the lively city of Hue, this 23-year-old’s childhood was filled with diverse experiences, friendships, and a touch of mischief. These early adventures set the stage for the extraordinary journey he’s now undertaking.

Le Viet Tan Phat’s story takes an unexpected turn when he finds himself in a selective class, challenged to learn two foreign languages, English and Japanese. Initially grappling with the complexities of Nihongo, he discovered a profound love for Japan’s language and rich culture. Motivated by this newfound passion, Tan Phat set his sights on conquering the Japanese specialized class at Quoc Hoc Hue High School for the Gifted.

Financial constraints almost stopped him from studying in another country, but a scholarship opportunity at Asia University paved the way for him. Despite the unplanned city, he embraced the challenges with a language proficiency and an optimistic mindset.

Why this program? Tan Phat envisions himself as a global citizen, equipped to engage in discussions about worldwide issues. Although not directly aligned with his future goal in marketing, the broad perspective gained in International Relations has enriched his understanding of global challenges, from hunger in Africa to early marriages worldwide.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Tan Phat thriving in Tokyo. Set to graduate in March this year, the Hue native has secured a position with an advertising agency in the same city specializing in the medical field. This marks the beginning of his career, and as he anticipates this new chapter, excitement, and nervousness blend to create a mix of emotions.

Le Viet Tan Phat’s journey is not just a narrative; it’s an inspiration and the pursuit of dreams against all odds. In this week’s Study Abroad episode, we hear more of Tan Phat’s journey in Japan — how he prepared, his biggest takeaways, and his hopes for the future.

Financial constraints almost stopped him from studying in another country, but a scholarship opportunity at Asia University paved the way for him. | Source: Le Viet Tan Phat

On his preparation before leaving Vietnam

Reflecting on the preparations made before leaving Vietnam, two pivotal aspects stand out: language and mindset.

When it comes to language, the more proficient you are in the language of the country you’re living and studying in, the fewer difficulties and pressures you will encounter in life. Despite having studied Japanese for many years before arriving in Japan, I still faced challenges in language comprehension and communication upon my arrival.

Regarding mindset, I came to the realization that life in Japan wouldn’t always be an easy and smooth journey. Instead of worrying about whether I could handle the challenges of living far from family and being independent, I created a list of potential difficulties I might encounter and how to address them to the best of my ability. Ultimately, I understood that, no matter the challenges, maintaining an optimistic mindset and belief in myself would provide me with the motivation needed for this journey.

Le Viet Tan Phat took part in a Japanese-speaking contest for Vietnamese students in Japan and was fortunate to win the first prize. | Source: Le Viet Tan Phat

On his daily routine

On weekdays, my schedule is packed as I head to school for classes from 9 AM to 5 PM. The academic grind doesn’t stop there; post-school hours are dedicated to part-time work in the evenings. As the weekend arrives, I continue to balance academics and part-time commitments. Occasionally, I take some time to hang out with friends or find solace in cafes and libraries, tackling homework assignments.

It’s worth noting that international students like me are restricted to a maximum of 28 working hours per week in adherence to Japanese regulations. However, the allowance expands to around 40 hours per week during extended holidays such as summer and spring breaks.

Now, in my final year of university, with a reduced course load, my focus has shifted. I allocate significant time to crafting my graduation thesis, juggling part-time work, and acquiring additional skills essential for my future career. This transitional phase marks a crucial period of growth and preparation for the next chapter beyond university life.

On what keeps him going

I have to keep going because I can’t go back. Whenever I feel like giving up, I ask myself: ‘What was my reason for starting?’ Wasn’t it about the passion for a country or language or the desire for new experiences? Despite the many challenges I have faced, thinking about what I have tried to accomplish on this long journey and envisioning a brighter future if I continue striving, I find the motivation to keep going.

Le Viet Tan Phat and his family - Reunion after two years due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. | Source: Le Viet Tan Phat

On staying connected to his family and friends in Vietnam

I don’t regularly call my family because my parents are older and not very familiar with technology. However, we occasionally have video calls to update each other on our situations. Due to the infrequent contact, I remember being greatly surprised once when, after several months without calling, I noticed that my parents’ faces had aged more since the last time we spoke extensively. In those moments, I feel the need to put in even more effort because of my family.

On building relationships abroad

I have some Japanese and foreign friends, but I’m not as close to them as my Vietnamese friends whom I meet here. From my perspective, it is not easy to feel comfortable chatting and becoming close with Japanese people as they tend to be less outgoing and sociable compared to people in Vietnam. Of course, you can have conversations with them, but I think it is difficult to develop deep friendships with them.

On having an English name

I have to convert my real name into a Japanese phonetic transcription so that Japanese people can pronounce it more easily. There have been many funny moments related to my name; for example, it took me nearly 5 minutes to explain how to write my name to an Internet company during a phone registration process.

Le Viet Tan Phat and his Vietnamese friends when he first arrived in Japan in 2019. | Source: Le Viet Tan Phat

On the importance of nurturing creativity

I believe my passion lies in working with my ideas and communicating with others. I enjoy listening to people’s stories, observing everything around me, and transforming these experiences into stories and blogs that reflect my thoughts and perspectives.

While university provides theoretical knowledge and peers within the same age group, society offers unexpected lessons and opportunities to forge positive and challenging relationships that leave lasting memories and thoughts. Therefore, I think it is crucial to sustain a passion for continuous learning and building relationships throughout my life.

On what he learned from studying abroad

During my four years in Japan, I’ve learned some important things that helped me along the way: Firstly, believing in myself was key. I realized I shouldn’t treat myself badly or think I’m too weak to make an effort.

Taking breaks when needed became crucial. I learned not to push myself too hard all the time and to find a balance between working hard and taking a rest. Living in a different culture had its challenges. Instead of complaining about it, I tried to fit in and adapt to the new environment rather than wondering why things were different.

Getting ready before studying abroad was a game-changer. I focused on preparing my language skills and having a mindset to face challenges before starting my journey, not after. Lastly, I discovered that reaching out and building relationships was vital to not feeling lonely. By connecting with others, I not only expanded my friend circle but also made my time in Japan more fulfilling.

Le Viet Tan Phat experiencing his first cherry blossom season in Japan. | Source: Le Viet Tan Phat

On how his outlook on life has evolved

The challenges I’ve faced have taught me that life is a series of choices. Every day presents decisions to make, and whether those choices turn out right or wrong, they become experiences and lessons. So, it’s important to trust yourself and set clear plans and goals before deciding anything. If you happen to make the wrong choice and face failure, that’s okay. Now, you’ve gained a valuable experience that not everyone goes through. Use it as motivation for a second chance to do better.

This perspective shift has led me to see life in a more multidimensional and positive way. Approaching life with a positive mindset can genuinely help in alleviating pressures.

On dealing with challenges

With myself, I am fortunate to have some friends whom I can turn to when I need someone to talk to or seek advice. Although they may not provide solutions, they are always willing to listen. “Speaking out” about your worries is also a way to reduce anxiety. Conversely, listen more to be listened to more by others. Life is fair; if you treat others well, many others will treat you well in return. You still have yourself if you have no one by your side to listen. Always treat yourself well, don’t set high expectations or put pressure on yourself. Be gentle and kind to yourself.

Le Viet Tan Phat at Owakudani - a popular tourist spot in Japan. | Source: Le Viet Tan Phat

On his hopes for the future

After failing many job interviews, I have finally found a good job in the advertising industry and will start working next month after my graduation. Therefore, in the coming years, I want to seriously build my career in the field I love. Furthermore, I have realized that there are many things I want to share and a strong desire to communicate with others. I want to create a YouTube channel or a podcast to share my perspectives and life experiences. Lastly, my ultimate goal is to complete the novel that I have been nurturing ideas for a long time but haven’t been able to finish.

This or That

Movies or books?


Cats or dogs?


Fresh juice or smoothie?

Fresh juice

Shopping in-store or online?

Shopping in-store

Instagram or X?


Give a speech or write a paper?

Can I choose both?