|Achiever: Lý Khánh Quỳnh of An Giang’s Thoại Ngọc Hầu secondary school will represent Viet Nam at the young leaders forum in New York. Photo courtesy of EF Việt Nam|
Lý Khánh Quỳnh, a 9th grader of the Thoại Ngọc Hầu Secondary School in An Giang Province, has won a major competition to join the Global Forum of Young Leaders to be held in New York this August. She spoke with Hà Nguyễn about her experience and expectations.
Inner Sanctum: Congratulations! You have been chosen from more than 10,000 Vietnamese students to participate in the Global Forum for Young Leaders (GFYL) to be held in New York in August. How do you feel? Howhave you prepared for the trip?
My trip to representing our country at the GFYL will be the journey of a lifetime. It feels incredible. It felt like a dream to me when I was announced champion of EF (Education First) Challenge. It was a somewhat surrealistic moment, filled with happiness and excitement. It only sank in when it was over, and even then, it felt impossible. I felt truly blessed and honoured to be given this opportunity.
I believe strongly that good communication should start with a good purpose. So, from the very first stage of the competition, I always asked myself: "Why am I in this competition? And the only reason I could think of was to give a speech that could change the world. So I did not attempt to write a perfect "script" for my speech; rather, I spent more time focusing on the emotional enthusiasm I needed to bring to the occasion. Once I had got my purpose and ideas clear in my head, I did not have to worry about rehearsing it much, because I wanted to keep it natural and true.
In preparing for the trip, there are many other culture-specific differences I want to know about before representing Việt Nam at events abroad. I will try to read books, keep up with the current news and keep improving my English skills in order to close the culture gap and overcome language barriers.
I think preparing myself with a lot of knowledge will definitely give me a much better chance of understanding people when they talk, and of being able to express myself well in front of many friends from all over the world.
Inner Sanctum: When did you start learning English? What did you find tough and/or easy about learning this language? What is the secret to your fluency?
My first encounter with the English language was when I was in grade 3. I started studying English pretty late compared to many kids nowadays simply because my family could not afford to pay for tuition at big English-teaching centres.
For me, getting used to English was specially challenging at first. It took a lot of time to become familiar with the spelling, grammar and phonetics, perhaps because I started learning it when I was already so used to pronouncing words and thinking in my mother tongue. But the great thing was that there were a lots of ways to learn English, and mine was definitely very interesting: watching Disney movies. I feel so lucky that back then, my parents were somehow able to buy me a small cable TV set, so I was watching cartoons on Disney channel all the time. I believe these movies provide more than just entertainment. In fact, watching foreign language films has definitely had a huge impact on my language skills. While I watched a movie, I could pick up new expressions that could not be found in a textbook and I could also imitate natives’ intonations. Honestly, I was far interested in this specific type of learning English than how it was taught in school.
Nowadays, I still prefer learning English through films and Youtube videos, especially fast-paced, easy thrillers. It builds your comprehension and vocabulary even as you are relaxing after a hard working day. I will forever be thankful for Disney’s movies, and I totally recommend this wonderful way of studying English to everyone, especially small kids.
Inner Sanctum: Apart from the language, what are other things that you are passionate about ?
In addition to my endless love for English, I do enjoy many forms of art that spur my creativity and ignite my passions; photography and music, for instance. Photography gives me a way to see the world through my own lens and then present it to others. Music is a universal language. It opens doors into other cultures. And the best thing about these forms of art is that they have no boundaries. There are zero limits to what I can imagine and create so I can express myself freely through photos and songs.
Inner Sanctum: Tell us about the support you received, from your parents, teachers and others.
My parents, friends and teachers do support me a lot. My parents read to me when I was younger. Had it not been for their support, I wouldn’t have been the person I am today. I must say my parents are strict but also very supportive. If it is something that I enjoy, they will definitely help me. My teachers and friends are also people who have shaped my personality. They are always by my side to guide me through ups and downs, inspire and motivate me to become the best version of myself.
Inner Sanctum: Please share some of the most memorable experience of the EF Challenge 2017? What topics did you write and speak about for the contest?
For someone who’d never in her wildest dreams ever thought of becoming a champion of an international competition, the moment the result was announced was a wonderful and unexpected turning point in my life.
Winning the competition was also luck, since all the competitors were equally good and inspiring.
However, the most memorable experience of the entire journey was definitely the five minutes of performing onstage. I loved every second of being in front of hundreds of people, expressing my ideas and enthusiasm while speaking on “What does it mean to be a global citizen?”
To this day, that mixture of emotions — excitement, nervousness and fun, is vivid in my memory.
Inner Sanctum: What are your plans after your return from NY?
I’ve always wanted to travel abroad. And being given the opportunity to participate in the GFYL in New York not only to see the world, but to listen to new ideas, to be inspired and surround myself with many other young leaders of the world, is absolutely a dream come true. I truly believe this programme will offer me valuable skills, new knowledge, perspectives, and expertise.
On returning, I want to spread all this knowledge to fellow students in my high school as well as others who are interested in leadership and innovation. I want to contribute to my high school where I grew and evolved so much as an individual by organizing events to inspire younger students, ignite their passion, expand their horizons, and help them appreciate everything the world has to offer.
Moreover, I want to further support my school’s English Speaking Club, where I am the leader, with tips and tricks to study English that I’ve picked up along the way. I will try my best to use all the knowledge that the summit has to offer me and share it with everyone.
I also plan to further my education at the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a full scholarship. I believe this university will be a perfect place for new and exciting experience, where I can turn my skills and innovative ideas into reality. — VNS