Nguyen Minh Thuy was awarded GREAT scholarship in 2021–22. She achieved MSc degree in Climate Change and International Development at University of East Anglia.
Why did you choose the UK as a study destination?
The first reason why I chose to study in the UK is because of the world-class quality of the education system with many leading institutions in science and interdisciplinary development, especially in climate change and renewable energy science. The purpose of the UK’s education system focuses on interdisciplinary and comprehensive knowledge. It has a feature of the liberal arts education that creates a favourable environment for students to maximise their thinking ability and develop their potential in the most natural way.
The second reason is my strong feelings for British detective novels. Since my childhood, the famous detective literature works of Agatha Christie and the cases of Sherlock Holmes have always been where I immerse myself and enable me to unleash my imagination and curiosity to the fullest.
The last one is that I was inspired to love English by this country’s music. Born in the early 1990s, since I was a child, I have listened to the classic rock songs of The Beatles, Queens, then the 2000s pop songs of Blue, Atomic Kittens, and now Adele’s music. My English study journey started with nights staying up late, jotting down every single song lyric and searching for the meaning of new words in the paper dictionary (and later e-dictionary) to understand the story each song delivers. Having understood each song, I felt very great. All of these factors motivated me to come to the UK.
How was your feeling when received GREAT scholarship?
The GREAT Scholarship gave me a great opportunity to make my dream of studying in the UK come true and to enter the University of East Anglia (UEA) – a great university ranked in the world’s top 10 for Development Science. I am very proud to become a GREAT scholar. In 2021, the GREAT Scholarship for Sustainable Development was awarded exclusively for students who aspire to study environment, climate change, and development majors. Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to become a UEA student and meet great friends who share the same passion for my study major. Thanks to the networking programme organised by the British Council, we had a chance to attend side events of last year COP26 in Glasgow and to connect with other international young people who are concerned about climate change. It was a once-in-a-life-time benefit that only GREAT scholars had. That experience gave me more confidence in what I have been trying to pursue.
What do you think about the study programme and educational environment in the UK?
The biggest difference when studying in the UK compared to being a student in Vietnam is the feeling of being a global citizen. Each class of mine is a mini multi-cultural environment with classmates coming from many different countries. Having the opportunity to study development with friends from developed countries has given me new perspectives and trained my multi-dimensional thinking considerably.
The study modules in UAE are designed for students to proactively and flexibly adjust their schedule to attend events of the school and the university. In my school – the School of International Development, there are many diverse activities such as joining Journal Club to discuss scientific articles and attending workshops with experts in the development area. The diversification of teaching activities to create open spaces for discussion is my favourite part of this education because I can practise my critical thinking skill and critique the knowledge that I have learned instead of trying to “learn-it-by-heart” it. This allows me to reconsider the optimum purpose of learning in a completely refreshing way.
Another special thing is that I have had to spend time on doing self-study much more than time going to lecture classes, which was common to my learning experience in Viet Nam. Students receive lesson records every week and research by themselves before coming to classes then come to class to discuss relevant problems and reflect on what they have learned by doing so. Reading books and scientific articles, and updating specialised knowledge is almost a must to become an excellent student. This is has been pressure for me, but also a chance to bring me back to my love of reading in the past. Admittedly, reading and studying at the same time has promoted self-reflection of what I have accumulated through practical work experience and learning theories, thereby helping me develop multi-dimensional thinking which is an important skill for students in an interdisciplinary science major like Climate Change.
Finally, as UEA concentrates on supporting students’ well-being, we have a large number of societies for students to participate in including sports and artistic activities to balance their lives. Attending such activities allow me to take good care of my heart and my brain and excel in my study productively.
What will be your plan after finishing this Master’s degree?
The reason why I go back to school after working for seven years is to approach new thinking to cultivate and find solutions in encouraging sustainable consumption in the community and solving the problem of sustainable livelihood for vulnerable people affected by climate change. I had experience working for NGOs and consulting agencies in this field before doing my master’s degree, so I want to gain more expertise through projects about sustainable development and improving adaptive capacity against climate change in Vietnam. After finishing my master’s degree, I want to continue to work in the development sector. In the further future, I will take a PhD study if I find a suitable topic in the field of environment and sustainable development.
What advice would you give to Vietnamese students who wish to apply for GREAT Scholarship?
My application experience is that you need to spend time on understanding yourself, the university, and the course you are going to study. The study curriculum in the UK is diverse and uniquely designed. Each course programme will emphasize one specific area in an industry sector. Each teaching module will arm you with a massive amount of knowledge and distinctive skills that are useful for your future job. Therefore, spend a lot of time on understanding the type of professional work that you want to do after graduating in recruitment sources of information and identify key background knowledge and skills required for the job. By doing that, you can select the most suitable course for yourself. Ask yourself this question 'How do you want to make the most of one year in the UK for your personal development?'. Just when you understand the study programme well can you really find the ‘intersectional point’ between you and the scholarship, then you have a perfect preparation for the application.