Cao Thi Thanh Huyen was the first Vietnamese student to attend the European Forum Alpbach, the Global Entrepreneurship Summer School and, most recently, the Clinton Global Initiative University. She discusses her work and future plans with Thu Trang.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose to study at the FSB Institute of Business Administration under the University of FPT, which has just been founded and is thought to have little fame?
I passed the entrance exam to the Foreign Trade University in 2010, but I chose to attend the University of FPT. The Foreign Trade University was my dream during my childhood, but the FSB Institute of Business Administration under the University of FPT is also a good institute which trains students based on modern and self-motivating methods and focuses on information technology.
For my family and friends at that time, the new institute is not a safe selection. But to me, this is a promising blue ocean with opportunities for me to affirm myself.
With this decision, I gained numerous opportunities to introduce the image of Viet Nam at international camps and forums.
And after four years of studying at the institute, I find that I'm not regreting my choice. Sometimes adventure is an interesting thing in life. The FPT University and the FSB Institute of Business Administration have wonderful atmospheres for studying that puts students' interests on top. If the students really strive, their efforts will be acknowledged.
Inner Sanctum: Can you say something about the international forums which you have attended?
I was chosen as the first Vietnamese student to attend the European Forum Alpbach (EAF) organised in Austria in 2012, with the participation of statesmen, Nobel prize-winning scientists, social science professors, famous businessmen and more than 200 distinguished students from 60 countries.
At the EAF, I made a good impression with a speech about Viet Nam and answered questions from international students and professors about young Vietnamese people and what they are doing to meet the demand of the new and future world.
With my success at the EFA, Professor Howard Williamson, chairman of the European Youth Policy and a lecturer at the University of Glamorgan in the United Kingdom, wrote a letter of recommendation for me to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (GESS) in Munich, Germany in 2013.
The GESS witnessed the participation of 35 students from 35 different countries who were chosen from among 1,200 registered students. The students were divided into seven groups. Each group worked together for seven days to set up a project with the theme "Rethinking Education".
At the GESS, I joined four other students from Palestine, Germany, Nigieria and Brazil in focusing on emerging issues in developing countries and least developed ones that involved young people, such as the rising percentage of high school dropouts resulting from insufficient funding for education and the rising unemployment rate resulting from lack of skills and qualifications.
After two weeks, my group built the Eskillator project, which focused on access to education for street children and orphans.
With this model, the project linked with businesses, companies and restaurants in providing skills and vocational training that enables young people to make a living and save the money they needed to go back to school. Given the opportunity to learn, they will be able to discover their own abilities.
To date, the Eskillator project is being implemented in Nigeria, where the school drop-out rate is 17 per cent. The project joined hands with information technology companies to give vocational training to 100 youths.
Nigeria is the first phase of the project, which will last until 2016. After that, the project will proceed to other developing countries using the social franchise model. Viet Nam will be part of the third phase in 2018.
With GESS, I had the opportunity to attend the Oktoberfest, the world's largest fun fair held annually in Munich and Bavaria in Germany. I spent a day drinking beer, dancing and singing traditional songs with the GESS board and members.
And the GESS brought me and other members of the Eskillator project to the Clinton Global Initiative University in the United States where I met my idol, Bill Clinton, the 42nd US president.
During the trip, I tried to seize the opportunity because this event brought together investors and projects from whom I could learn much. My group stopped at the semi-final of the Clinton Global Initiative University, but the Eskillator project received US$3,000 more in funding, bringing the total to $8,000.
Inner Sanctum: What difficulties did you encounter when attending international forums?
Not all forums were held in English-speaking countries and participants had different English-speaking styles, so sometimes I encounter some difficulties in communication.
One of the driving forces for overcoming obstacles and difficulties in international events is the desire to affirm Viet Nam's image.
Sometimes, I am surprised and self-deprecating when I find that many young people abroad do not know much about Viet Nam. I tried to introduce participants at the forums about Viet Nam through clothes and dishes. When you reach the world level, the country will be your biggest motivation to try.
Inner Sanctum: What are your future plans?
This year, we will set up a website for the Eskillator project to mobilise funds for the microfunding model.
The project is expected to be implemented in Viet Nam with the help of Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese-Australian and owner of the KOTO restaurant, which has given training to a number of street children. I hope to expand the model across Viet Nam.
Next year, I will study for a masteral degree in project administration to enable me to take over the project in Viet Nam, and work as a trainee at the KOTO restaurant to gather some more experiences. — VNS