Thu Hằng's love affair with the French language began during her formative years in Vietnam. From primary school through high school, she and her friends shared a passion for the language that was only heightened by the annual visits from young French volunteers who not only taught them French but also exposed them to the vibrant culture of France.
As a result, Hằng's heart was set on studying in France, and she finally got her chance in 2019 when she traveled to Paris with some close friends, her excitement palpable as she embarked on her long-awaited adventure.
But her journey didn't end there. Hằng continued to pursue her love for hospitality and studied in France for two years, where she honed her skills in the art of making people feel at home. And just when she thought her journey was complete, she received a scholarship from Essec Business School to study in the US at Boston University as an exchange student for 8 months, and a new adventure beckons.
In January 2023, Hằng set foot on American soil, leaving behind the familiar sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris and immersing herself in the vibrant atmosphere of Boston. In this week’s Study Abroad episode, we will take a closer look at Hằng's incredible journey, one that has taken her across continents, and discover the lessons she has learned along the way.
On her preparation before leaving Vietnam:
When I left Vietnam for Paris, I packed light, but not without bringing a stash of mooncakes as gifts. I was warned by senior students that everything is readily available in Paris, except for self-control when it comes to pastries and baked goods - a particular weakness for girls. And boy, were they right!
However, when I moved from Paris to Boston during the chilly winter months, I discovered the real meaning of cold. Thankfully, I had made the smartest investment yet - a high-quality jacket that kept me warm and cozy from the moment I disembarked from the plane. It was a small but mighty item that proved to be invaluable in my new home away from home.
On her daily routine:
At Boston University, classes are mostly in the afternoon from Monday to Thursday, giving me free time for self-study and team projects. As a hospitality student, hands-on experience is crucial, and I often visit hotels and restaurants as part of my studies.
Living in Boston for eight months has allowed me to explore American culture with friends, but I remain focused on my studies. To balance my time effectively, I prioritize organization and time-management skills.
I also love yoga and team sports. Not only do they improve my physical health and balance, but they also help me reconnect with myself and enhance my concentration. I make sure to block out specific time slots each week to practice them.
On what keeps her going:
Despite living away from my mother, she remains my inspiration and motivation to move forward. The hospitality industry is constantly changing, and every day brings a new set of challenges. Nevertheless, this keeps me refreshed and energized while studying and working in the field.
On this study abroad journey, I have been fortunate enough to receive support and guidance from senior students. Their invaluable assistance and willingness to help in any situation have kept me motivated and driven. I am grateful to have been a part of such a supportive and encouraging community, and I hope to continue this tradition of helping other international students in the future.
On staying connected to her family and friends in Vietnam:
My friends and family remain an important part of my life despite our busy schedules. We may not talk every day, but our connection is strong. Since moving to the US alone, I've realized the importance of staying connected with my loved ones.
I consciously stay in touch with them more frequently now. My family, in particular, has been a constant source of support and encouragement. Even though we may be physically apart, our bond remains unbreakable.
On building relationships abroad and having an English name:
I think I’m so lucky to have friends from all over the world, including Vietnamese and foreign friends, while I was in France and now in the US. Despite age differences, we share common interests and often study or work together.
Although I have an English name, I don't mind helping people pronounce my real name, which can spark new conversations and ease my anxiety. Overall, my diverse group of friends embraces cultural differences, making me feel grateful to be part of such a welcoming community.
On what she learned from studying abroad:
Living and working in an international environment has opened my eyes to the importance of being mindful of my actions and their potential impact on others.
Throughout my prior internship experience, I collaborated with a group of coworkers from various backgrounds. Despite my best efforts, it took a lot of work to keep track of everyone's name, so we often opted for using the terms of their countries or communities instead. However, upon further reflection, I began to recognize that this seemingly harmless habit could reinforce stereotypes and misunderstandings.
This experience taught me the significance of being mindful of my actions and words in a multicultural setting. It reinforced the idea that every action I take, no matter how small, can have a lasting impact on my community and relatives.
As such, I've made it a personal responsibility to educate myself about different cultures and to actively promote inclusion and understanding in everything I do.
On how her outlook on life has evolved:
Studying abroad in two countries with diverse cultures has given me the confidence to be independent and appreciate the community. I've learned to prioritize my well-being and protect myself from unwanted situations while being a team player.
Applying for internships during the COVID-19 pandemic taught me the importance of always being prepared for opportunities and upcoming situations by continually learning and staying aware. This way, I can quickly adapt to any situation and seize opportunities when they arise.
I also understand that failure is part of the journey toward success, so I always prepare for the possibility of failure.
On dealing with challenges:
As someone who loves to travel and explore new places, the experiences and people I meet are just as important as the destination itself. Every person has a unique story to tell and a different perspective to offer. Whether it's the locals I meet or the fellow travelers I encounter, I try to learn something new from everyone I cross paths with.
These experiences have broadened my horizons and taught me to appreciate diversity and embrace different cultures.
On her hopes for the future:
Looking back in five years, I hope to have amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in hospitality, as I aspire to create YouTube videos showcasing my travels and discoveries of innovative hotel and restaurant concepts from around the world.
My goal is to share my passion with others interested in this field or prepare to pursue a career in hospitality.
This or That
Movies or books? - Movies
Fresh juice or smoothie? - Smoothie
Shopping in-store or online? - Online
Instagram or Twitter? - Instagram
Give a speech or write a paper? - Give a speech