Meet Quách Ái Thi, also known as Olivia. Her remarkable journey from Ca Mau in the south to the charming city of Leeds, is a story of resilience and ambition. Growing up in Ca Mau and then moving to Saigon, Thi faced challenges but had strong family support. She went to Can Tho for her education during a financially tough period and later pursued her dreams at the Vietnam Aviation Academy in Saigon. However, the UK, with its mix of tradition and innovation, called to her.
Thi is currently studying in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Leeds Beckett University. Her studies focus on strategic management and financial analysis, which are vital skills in today's ever-changing business world. Leeds, known for its vibrant culture and excellent education, has not only enhanced her academic journey but also broadened her global perspective. In contrast to the bustling streets of Saigon, Leeds provides her with a fresh canvas to begin a new chapter. Here, she engages with diverse classmates, each with their unique stories of dreams and determination.
In this week's episode of Study Abroad, come along with us on Thi's incredible journey. We'll explore her life, from her roots in Ca Mau, her education in Saigon, and her advanced studies in Leeds. Discover how she navigates between two very different worlds, driven by academic goals and an unwavering spirit of perseverance.
On her preparation before leaving Vietnam
Reflecting on my imminent journey to a distant land, the swift passage of time feels surreal, intermingled with a storm of anticipation, anxiety, and exhilaration. I resigned from my job well in advance, secured my IELTS, and had my visa ready a month prior. Before departure, I reconnected with family in my hometown and bid farewell to friends in Saigon. Every aspect, from lodging to logistics, was meticulously planned, with unwavering support from the university, my agency, and my loved ones. The poignant solitude of crossing the border and awaiting my flight remains unforgettable.
On her daily routine
A year into my UK journey, I've found myself growing resilient with each day. Everything has seamlessly aligned; I've landed a position at my university and worked shifts at a local eatery. My daily ritual includes cooking for myself and sparing 30 minutes for yoga, which has been transformative for my routine. On free days, the art gallery café becomes my haven, where I lose myself in books and occasionally sketch on my iPad, purely for the joy of it.
On what keeps her going
Despite confronting a few hurdles, I remain resolute in my choice to pursue studies abroad. This journey, while long, has been profoundly enlightening, granting me not only a window into another world but also deeper self-awareness. Each day offers fresh insights into the local culture and its people, amplifying my cultural understanding and offering invaluable perspectives for my professional journey. I'm confident that when I come back to Vietnam, I'll return as an evolved version of myself.
On staying connected to her family and friends in Vietnam
While I may not converse with my mother daily, I always make an effort to reach out when time permits. A year has passed, and the longing for my family remains profound. Though my friends and I might not chat every day, our bond is sustained through regular interactions on social media. The nostalgia for Vietnam, particularly Saigon, runs deep - I yearn for its distinctive cuisine, the genuine warmth of its inhabitants, and the soothing embrace of its frequent rain showers.
On building relationships abroad
I view myself as a gregarious person during my university days. My academic and extracurricular pursuits, along with my travels, have paved the way for me to forge meaningful ties with a diverse array of individuals. My circle of friends is a rich tapestry of cultures, encompassing Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, British, Spanish, and Italian origins.
On having an English name
Thanks to my English teacher's advice, I started using the name 'Olivia' years ago when communicating with colleagues from around the world in my previous jobs. Living in the UK, having an English name has made my professional and academic interactions smoother. But as much as possible, I still prefer to be referred to as my Vietnamese name and surprisingly, both the locals and my international friends here have been incredibly welcoming. They not only respect my decision to use my Vietnamese name but also see it as a sign of authenticity. Correcting the pronunciation is easy, and they're eager to get it right.
On the importance of nurturing creativity
Outside of my studies, I'm deeply committed to community service. Since moving to the UK, I've immersed myself in various volunteer roles. I work with Homeless Street Angels, collecting and distributing essentials to Leeds' homeless every Thursday. My university's Eco Soup initiative serves pay-what-you-wish vegetarian soup twice a week. The funds raised help us provide students with affordable staple foods, assisting those facing financial challenges.
I've also volunteered with Candlelighter, aiding children with cancer in Leeds. I've honed skills like organization, teamwork, and communication through these roles. Moreover, these experiences, filled with inspiring people, enrich my life, ensuring my well-being both mentally and physically.
On what she learned from studying abroad
Embarking on my study abroad journey has been a mix of enlightening experiences and trying times. This adventure has taught me self-sufficiency and helped shift my mindset from inherent pessimism to a brighter perspective. What stands out prominently in my education here is the cherished value of "academic freedom." Different from my prior educational experiences, everyone's ideas flow without apprehension here.
This environment fosters open dialogue and has bolstered my confidence to express myself without fearing judgment. I've not only learned to value my own opinions but also understood the essence of constructive participation. This transformative phase has added invaluable dimensions to my academic and personal growth.
On how her outlook on life has evolved
I believe that when I go back to Vietnam, I'll be a better, more improved me, all thanks to this transformative journey. After facing failures, I've become more hopeful, strong, and less worried about what others think. This change in my personality has dramatically boosted my sales career, boosting my confidence and motivating me to pursue ambitious dreams like starting my own business.
On dealing with challenges
Navigating the nuanced terrains of a new locale, the initial months here unfolded as a blend of culinary adventures, linguistic adjustments, and the age-old hustle of job hunting. My sales background, an often-underestimated toolkit, became a bridge—connecting me to diverse social circles and amplifying my linguistic prowess. Merging drive with strategic outreach, I found myself employed within a fortnight, offering a much-needed financial reprieve.
On her hopes for the future
From the outset of my career, I harbored a clear ambition: to ascend to the role of sales manager or director within a global corporation by 35. Yet, as time progressed, my vision evolved, expanding to potentially steering my enterprise in a field I'm passionate about. Whether leading in a corporate setting or pioneering my venture, one conviction remains unwavering: my legacy will be carved in Vietnam.
This or That
Movies or books?
Cats or dogs?
Fresh juice or smoothie?
Shopping in-store or online?
Instagram or Twitter?
Give a speech or write a paper?
Write a paper.