Though I got a scholarship worth a billion of VND, to me, the success is not passing the application or the interview process. Success lies in the journey in which I learned to conquer my fear and to grow up.
About the author
Le Doan Phuong Nhi majored in Literature in 12th grade at the High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City. She received first prize for the 2016 Diamond Challenge organized by H2Team and is the key writer for Hoa Hoc Tro Magazine with the pen name Phuong Nhi.
Nhi is among the first undergraduate cohort of Fulbright University Vietnam – a university that was officially recognized by President Obama during his State visit to Hanoi in 2016. Nhi received a financial aid of 70% for her four years at Fulbright, including tuition fee and living expenses. In addition to that, Nhi received a Fulbright Founding Scholarship of USD 5,000 every year. In total, Nhi’s scholarship and financial aid are worth approximately USD 72,000 (approximately VND 1.7 billion).
Conquering my fear
There was this one time I went to a cafe with my friends. Looking at me menu in English, I confidently asked the waitress: “I’d like to order a glass of passionate juice,” – instead of passion fruit, of course. Just as I finished my sentence, everyone – my friends, the waitress – bursted out laughing. From then on, I became afraid of English. Me in high school was a girl who couldn’t even write a Facebook update or present in English. I was afraid that everyone would laugh at my pronunciation or incorrect use of grammar.
Thus, when I applied to Fulbright and learned that I had to write and speak in English, I panicked: “How on earth can I pull this off?”; English was my greatest fear. Yet, I calmed myself down and kept telling myself that it’s the first step that counts. I started working on my essay and a video on my favorite subject (all in English).
While I was struggling with vocabularies and grammar, I saw the description in the application. It said: “Don’t worry, your vocabulary and grammar errors will not affect the evaluation process. What matters most is what you have experienced and what you have learned.”
I suddenly realized that no one would fail me for not pronouncing or using a word correctly. Language is only a tool for communication and connecting people instead of picking each other apart. That was the moment I overcame the fear of using English; and I thought: “Everyone who reads my application will try to understand my story and my experience instead of finding fault. Thus, I don’t have to be afraid.”
Know who I am, what I need and what I want!
In the past, I always had doubts about my own ability especially when everyone around me has their own unique strength. Then I received the email from Fulbright notifying me that I was chosen to proceed to the Group Interview round. There was this one line in the email that made me think: “Relax, sleep, eat and be yourself.”
That was the moment I realized that the highest GPA, the international awards, or the most meaningful social activities could only mean so much.
What helps us to be prepared for anything is to always be our brightest, truest and most unique self.
From then on, I began my quest to find my own passions. I listed out three areas that I was interested in and would like to pursue further: Environment – Children – Communication. Thus, at the Group Interview day, when asked what was the achievement I was most proud of, I did not hesitate to talk about my article on carbon footprint, on the environment, and how we could protect the earth together.
The article was published on Hoa Hoc Tro Magazine no. 1176.
In addition, on Group Interview day, we got to participate in a demo class; and just my luck, my assigned subject was Chemistry, my arch enemy. To my surprise, the professor started the class with a multiple choice question for a chemical equation. The choices were: A. This is a chemical equation; B. I don’t understand why I’m here; and C. Something seems wrong. And us students were encouraged to voice our thoughts.
Funny enough, there was no right or wrong answer. Some of us chose option B and then shared our reason why. By the end of the class, the professor told us: “These demo classes are not only for Fulbright to choose our future students, but also for you to have the chance to see if Fulbright and the program are the right choice for you.” So I believe that as long as you know who you are, what you need, and what you want, you will make the right decision for you.
The more you take on new challenge, the more you grow
For me, my bold decision to apply to Fulbright University Vietnam led to an invaluable experience, which is worth more than the scholarship I received. It taught me how to overcome my fear of using and learning English, and how to accept my flaws so that I could perfect them. It was also a chance for me to appreciate who I am, my values, and my true worth.
Achieving success is similar to climbing a mountain.
To reach to the top, we have to go through days or months conquering different hardships and challenges. But everytime you fall, you learn a new lesson. Believe me, you need to take on new challenges to fail; and only then can you learn how to stand up again, fight the battle and stay on top.
By ZAA HUY
(Hoa Hoc Tro Magazine, October 2018)