Vietnamese trailblazer empowers students on global stage

October 08, 2023 - 08:36
Đinh Thị Thanh Hoa, founder of the HannahEd Scholarship for Vietnamese students, which has helped almost 3,000 people abroad, speaks with reporter Trương Khánh Linh about the challenges in her work and dedication to empowering young aspiring scholars.
Đinh Thị Thanh Hoa, founder of HannahEd. Photos courtesy of Đinh Thị Thanh Hoa

Inner Sanctum: What drove you to first study abroad, and did you face many difficulties in doing so?

Absolutely, I faced several challenges

Financially, my family struggled after my father's passing, with my mother as the sole provider. To save for the IELTS exam, I took on extra work and internships. Networking was also a hurdle for me, due to my limited resources and opportunities, but I actively sought connections at my university and industry events.

There was also peer pressure as my peers excelled in their careers. However, I was determined to pursue my dream of studying abroad to explore the world, widen my perspective, and support my family and community.

Inner Sanctum: As the founder of the HannahEd Scholarship for Vietnamese students, you have supported many students. Is there a story about a student you are particularly proud of?

Over the past decade, I've been privileged to witness truly heart-warming success stories with the help of our scholarship. One particular student's journey stands out – a young individual who tragically lost both parents at a tender age. Despite societal pressures, especially as a young woman, to follow a conventional path, she displayed remarkable resilience and determination. Her unwavering spirit led her to secure a scholarship to study in Denmark.

Another inspiring story revolves around a student who dared to pivot from a Business major at RMIT to the challenging field of Computer Science. Her courageous choice defied stereotypes about women in STEM and, against all odds, she successfully convinced UPenn, an Ivy League institution, to grant her a scholarship.

We also had the honour of assisting a woman leader, hailing from an ethnic minority background, and working diligently in the finance sector. While initially seeking scholarships for her daughter, she stumbled upon our community. With our collective guidance and support, she embarked on her own scholarship journey, ultimately securing a government scholarship to study in Australia.

Đinh Thị Thanh Hoa (right) speaking at a conference.

Inner Sanctum: For many people, choosing the right country and university abroad for studying can be a tough decision. How did you decide on New Zealand and the University of Waikato?

Choosing the right university and country to pursue my studies was a thoughtful process for me. I had two primary criteria that guided my decision-making. First, I wanted to find a university that offered the specific field of study I was passionate about, and second, I was on the lookout for opportunities for full scholarships.

During this search, a friend recommended the University of Waikato, and it immediately caught my attention. What drew me to New Zealand was its unique blend of fresh, innovative thinking and the serene, peaceful environment it offers. These factors, coupled with the excellent academic environment and the warmth and dedication of the professors at Waikato, convinced me that this was the perfect place for my educational journey.

Inner Sanctum: From your experience in various companies, have there been any particular lessons you've brought to your own career?

I've learned the importance of actively listening to and respecting others' opinions in a culturally diverse environment. Additionally, I've honed various soft skills, such as project management and confident communication, which enable me to express my ideas without fear of judgment.

My experience in a Vietnamese work environment primarily emphasized one-way learning through passive listening. However, working abroad taught me the value of actively listening while also confidently sharing my own insights.

Inner Sanctum: Could you share some valuable lessons you've learned in managing and growing the HannahEd community?

Managing a fan page with over 400,000 followers, a scholarship-hunter group boasting nearly 480,000 members, and connecting with more than 1 million friends through various social media channels has been an incredible journey. Along the way, I've picked up some invaluable lessons in nurturing and growing the HannahEd community.

First and foremost, the foundation of any successful community is a clear sense of purpose. You need to ask yourself why you want to build and expand such a community and how it can truly benefit its members. In the case of HannahEd, our mission is to provide a treasure trove of information related to education, job opportunities, and scholarships abroad.

Passion is the driving force behind community building. In the early days, I was the primary contributor, sharing my knowledge and experiences. However, as the community flourished, it became a collective effort, with more members joining in and generously sharing their insights, creating a dynamic and supportive environment.

Don't be afraid to seek help and collaboration from others when it comes to managing and nurturing a thriving community.

Lastly, maintaining a culture of respectful knowledge sharing is pivotal. Upholding community standards and ensuring that the content remains relevant and valuable while steering clear of spam or inappropriate content is essential for preserving the vibrancy of any community.

Inner Sanctum: From working in various countries, have you noticed differences in education systems and approaches?

My schooling experience here was quite passive, with teachers providing materials and education relying heavily on textbooks. However, when I had the opportunity to study abroad, I noticed a significant shift in the approach. While specialised textbooks were still important, teachers encouraged us to explore additional reading and engage in scientific research to expand our practical knowledge.

This change in approach boosted our autonomy as learners and taught us how to effectively search for and critically assess information. It was a departure from mere memorisation to a more engaging and analytical style of learning, complete with assignments, group work, and presentations.

I'm also pleased to observe that our education system is undergoing positive changes, with a growing adoption of effective teaching methods that align with international standards

Inner Sanctum: Do you have any advice for young individuals passionate about studying abroad and eager to explore the world?

Currently, there are plenty of opportunities worldwide. The question is whether you actively seek information and invest effort in understanding the details and profiles required for applications.

Two sayings I really resonate with are "Dreams don't work unless you do" and "One day or day one." Having goals and dreams is wonderful, but it's the planning and determination to take action that matters. Combining dreams and goals with a well-thought-out plan and unwavering commitment is the key to achieving what you desire. VNS