Student website oils US-VN networking

Published: 20/10/2008 05:00



VietNamNet BridgeMinh Thu discovers that as Vietnamese students go west, seeking higher levels of education and better prospects, an online forum has sprung up to help maintain ties.

This is how we roll: Overseas students share experiences at the Viet Abroad Business Conference 2008.

The idea was to provide an instant internet guide on business and studying opportunities for Vietnamese young people at home and abroad. Today the forum attracts around 15,000 users all over the world and plays an important role in not only helping students feel more at home, but also in bolstering ties to build national development.

Propelled by its popularity, the Viet Abroad Organisation (VAO) has recently been recognised as a non-profit organisation by the Education Ministry in the US. This summer it held a US$10,000-event at the White Palace Convention Centre, HCM City to provide Vietnamese students with information and guidance on education opportunities in the US and help overseas Vietnamese get involved in projects back in Viet Nam. US Ambassador to Viet Nam, Michael Michalak, made the opening speech.

Founder of the group, 24-year-old Pham Anh Khoa lauded the move as a sign of increasing US support for educational opportunities for students in Viet Nam and the endorsement for the VAO’s hard work.

Light bulb moment

Set up four years ago in New York, the group was the brainchild of a group of friends headed by Khoa. After graduating from a top university in the US, Khoa wanted to set up a forum for Vietnamese students to chat to each other and exchange news on job and study opportunities. “My friends and I felt lucky to be studying abroad and realised the huge potential overseas students can contribute to the country, so we decided to start doing something about it,” Khoa says.

The name Viet Abroad was Nguyen Thu Trang’s idea. “Whenever in the world Vietnamese people live, they always remember their origins,” Trang says. Today the group includes members from the US, UK and Singapore.

Setting up the club was also an issue of national development, Khoa says. “Viet Nam’s rapid entry into the global economy combined with its limited scope of education has created a severe shortage of managers, entrepreneurs and professionals.” Overseas education is recognised as the key to the developing Vietnamese skilled talent pool, he adds.

The meeting this summer was the third of its kind in the last few years. The VAO held another two conferences during the same time in 2005 and 2006, attracting more than 1,000 students and parents.

The VAO has attracted several sponsors, including International Data Group Ventures Viet Nam (IDGVV).

“VAO is the most reliable resource for students who want to study abroad,” says Operations and PR Director of the IDGVV Duong Thu Huong.

“IDGVV’s financial sponsorship will help provide much needed working capital, improve website functionality and support resources required to serve VAO’s important projects,” he says.

Among the VAO’s members, Khoa estimates there are about 4,000 students from 30 high schools in Viet Nam and abroad, about 1,000 students from 50 universities in the US, UK, Singapore, Canada and Viet Nam. There are also around 300 professionals working at 30 top firms, primarily in financial services, consulting and technology.

Full steam ahead

VAO has two big projects in the pipeline: to create an innovative job portal that will tap a new, high-quality supply of overseas Vietnamese students and establish an alumni network in Viet Nam for those graduating from American colleges and universities.

For Khoa and his friends, the biggest challenge is to sustain a healthy growth of their membership network while still maintaining a cohesive, close-knit community.

“We are a new organisation with a clear mission, healthy growth and a strong team. We would love to work with individuals and organisations who have an interest in, or want to make a difference to, any conceivable aspect of Viet Nam.”

Nguyen Cao Cuong, an overseas student of New York’s St. Lawrence University has been a VAO member since 2005.

“For me, the VAO doesn’t provide information on universities in the US only, it is a big family with special members who gather and co-operate to build a community,” Cuong says “Through the VAO, I have a chance to study, exchange ideas and grow up.”

“With the high quality of the thousands of entries on forums, VAO’s activities are very helpful and necessary for Vietnamese students who want to study abroad.”

Cuong has now handed the torch of enthusiasm to the next generation of students. “I hopes the VAO will grow to help postgraduate students and will become the greatest social network for Vietnamese students in the world.”

(Source: Viet Nam News)

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Provide by Vietnam Travel

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