An opportunity to study abroad is a dream for many, but only a few manage to take advantage of this chance effectively.
Lots of young people have wasted money and exasperated their parents through indulgent placements abroad.
Culture shocks, language barriers, insufficient education and a lack of moral support are usually the main reasons for failure when Vietnamese students embark on studies abroad.
Instead of working, far too many youngsters played.
While never rare, this situation has now become a common problem, causing large financial losses for many Vietnamese families.
Nguyeăn Thanh Mi, 22, born in the northern province of Hung Yen, was learning at a local college when her parents suggested she should apply for a course abroad. At this point she was bored of domestic learning, so she readily agreed.
Her parents wanted her to choose Russia because they had relatives living there.
However, after Mi was in Russia for a few months, her language skills and background knowledge remained poor. Hardly able to understand the lessons, Mi often played truant.
Far away from her family, Mi felt a lack of moral support and stopped paying attention to her studies. One year later, Mi was sent back to Viet Nam when the school expelled her due to poor exam results.
“Before I went abroad, I did not expect any challenges or difficulties. Money was not as important as learning a foreign language and adapting to their living environment,” she said.
“Also, the subject that I chose was not suitable with me. For these reasons, I’ve betrayed my parents’ expectations and failed my overseas adventure.”
It was a different story entirely with 21-year-old Phan Linh, from Ha Noi, who begged his parents to let him attend school in Germany. With Linh, a course abroad would be easy to arrange because his family was well-off.
Although he was well-prepared with knowledge, he was still anxious about learning with Western classmates.
But soon Linh became bored and spent most of his time sleeping or socialising. After nearly a year, he had to quit and return home.
“Coming back to Viet Nam, I felt very ashamed,” he said. “I was not suited to that environment, so I decided to quit and stop wasting my parents’ money.”
Mi and Linh are just two of the many overseas students who failed in their quest to get knowledge from the West. And they themselves recognised the reasons for their failure.
It is not easy to gain a Western diploma, but on coming back to Viet Nam, those who did manage it felt disappointed because they could not find suitable jobs.
Dr Nguyen Quoc Hung from Ha Noi University of Foreign Studies said Vietnamese overseas students found it hard to find a job abroad, because of the severe competition from many capable applicants.
“I have studied abroad so I understand difficulties they face in finding a job abroad. Currently, the number of Vietnamese overseas students is rising year by year so it will be increasingly difficult for them to come back to Viet Nam and find a job,” he said.
“I’ve lived in England, and I understand that living abroad is hard and comes with many pressures. We Asian people can be easily discriminated against so it is difficult for us to integrate into their living and working environments,” he added.
Hung’s belief that many overseas students find it difficult to gain a job in any country after graduating is a common one.
Le Van Hoang, winner of the “Road to Olympia Peak” competition in 2005 said: “After finishing my course in Australia, I wanted to return to work in Viet Nam. But that would have prevented me from continuing to learn in Australia. Moreover, the salary average in Viet Nam made me anxious. It was not high, and working environment was very different, so I decided to stay in Australia.”
Many overseas students (especially those who had to pay with their own money) chose to stay abroad to prove their independence, instead of returning to Viet Nam.
The main reason for this: with the large expenses they incurred over four or five years studying abroad, they would find it very difficult to obtain a job in Viet Nam that pays well enough to compensate for their family’s initial outlay.
Therefore, the route back home for many overseas students becomes more fraught.
They have to accept their fate of earning a living abroad, with the promise of a better salary but in a highly competitive job market.