Nguyen Thi Huong Thao, 36 years old, was awarded GREAT scholarship 2022–23 and is currently a master student in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the University of Westminster, London.
Why did you choose to study in the UK?
There are many reasons why I chose to study in the UK. First and foremost, as an entirely self-taught English learner for over 10 years, I dreamed of studying and living in the UK to be exposed to and immersed in the language that I love. Now it's a dream come true.
On top of that, the UK is home to many of the world's best universities. So, deciding to study in the UK is an investment in my future. Getting a prestigious degree from the UK is a valuable and transformative experience and would take my education to the next level.
Another reason is that the UK is a very diverse and international country. I wanted to study in a country that would expose me to different cultures and languages, and the UK definitely has that. I can speak four languages: French, Chinese, English, and Vietnamese. Living in London, with people coming from every continent, allows me to speak and practise those languages. Besides, it instills in me a love for learning other languages, and I intend to have a crack at some new languages, like Spanish and Japanese, in the future.
Why did you choose the MA TESOL course at University of Westminster?
I was born into a low-income family living in a rural mountainous area in Viet Nam, and I knew that to be able to step out of the village's bamboo ramparts, I would have to study hard. I have made relentless efforts and wished to study and live in big cities. Regarding studying in the UK, London was my number one choice since it's one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and the University of Westminster is located in the heart of London. This provides an excellent opportunity to learn about different cultures and gain first-hand experience working with students worldwide.
As I'm an ultra-marathon runner and a triathlete, London is also an ideal place to express myself, do workouts, and immerse myself in its nature.
As an English teacher for the past nine years, I chose to study the MA TESOL at the University of Westminster because I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of teaching English as a Second Language. The coursework is very comprehensive and covers all aspects of the field, from language acquisition theory to practical teaching methods. The faculty is also very experienced and passionate about teaching, making for a stimulating learning environment.
What has your experience of course content and study environment at University of Westminster been like so far?
What I like most about studying in the UK is the spirit of self-study and the warm support of the teachers here. The Master's programme does not have too many modules, like in Viet Nam. Students have to go to school only two or three days a week, so we have plenty of time to arrange our own learning, read books, research documents, participate in various workshops, and travel to different cities to explore the UK. Additionally, my course leader and teachers have been very enthusiastic about guiding me and often communicate via email to encourage me in every step of the learning process. That's what I have been touched by, and why I'm interested in studying here.
I have also found the TESOL MA programme and study environment at the University of Westminster to be very well-structured, stimulating and supportive. The tutors are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced and are always willing to share their expertise with students. The class sizes are small, which allows for a lot of interaction and discussion between students and tutors. The library and other university resources are conducive to my studies. Besides, the tuition fee is reasonable. I love my uni.
I enjoy my student life here; people say I've maintained an excellent study-life balance. During my first two months living in the UK, I made many new international friends, attended two live concerts performed by my favorite bands in the most prominent British arenas, and visited the ten biggest cities in England, Wales and Scotland. No matter what I do, I always try my best, and so with my studies. Last week, my teacher informed me that I got a distinction grade for the first essay in my core module. That's awesome!
Overall, I am delighted with my experience at the University of Westminster and would recommend it to anyone considering pursuing a career in teaching English and following a Master’s degree in TESOL in the UK.
How has the GREAT Scholarship impacted your life?
The GREAT Scholarship has had a profound impact on my life. After receiving the GREAT scholarship announcement, I wrote a post on Facebook and on my blog (thaoben.com) to share with everyone, and I received a lot of positive feedback. I was touched when people thanked me for inspiring and encouraging them to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams. It’s true that it's never too late to learn a new language, and there's no age limit for winning a scholarship. Even if you are middle-aged or married, when you are determined and have the ability to lead and help the community, you can perform miracles.
The GREAT Scholarship has allowed me to pursue my education at a higher level in the UK and has provided me with financial stability during my studies. Additionally, the Scholarship has allowed me to meet other like-minded individuals and network with international friends and teachers. I also knew that I would get access to an incredible, diverse, international community of scholars from whom I could learn, and with whom I could interact and build upon shared experiences. Overall, the GREAT Scholarship has been a life-changing experience. I am incredibly grateful for it, and I know that it will continue to benefit me in the future.
What is one of your favourite memories since you came to the UK?
I remember the day I arrived in the UK. I was so excited to be here and to start my new life. I remember the first time I went to the Ministry of Sound, a flagship nightclub, with my new schoolmates. We had such a great time, and I knew I would love living here. I've made so many great memories since then, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to live in such a wonderful country.
What are your plans after finishing your Master’s degree?
I believe that the Master’s in TESOL will give me the necessary skills and knowledge to be an effective teacher.
I plan to continue teaching English and eventually become an impactful and inspiring English teacher in Viet Nam. I am also interested in pursuing further academic research in the field of TESOL. After finishing my Master’s degree, I would like to develop my language school while contributing to the community by sharing, affecting, and helping English learners. I think the best part about a career in teaching is seeing the impact of my work in both the short- and long-terms, both of which are extremely rewarding and addictive. Over my nine years of teaching, I have inspired and helped thousands of students to acquire better English skills and increase their proficiency. I’ll keep moving forward to help people learn English so that they can communicate more effectively with the rest of the world and achieve what they’ve set out.
What advice would you give potential applicants for GREAT scholarship this year?
The GREAT scholarship is a highly competitive award. In Viet Nam, the University of Westminster offered only one slot for a Vietnamese student for the school year 2002-2023, and I was lucky to be awarded.
If you are considering applying for the GREAT scholarship, here is some advice that may help you.
First, believe in yourself! I applied when I was 36 years old; I was not working at a government agency or a big company. My overall academic grade point average was not as excellent as many others, but I always believe in myself. I'm confident that I have my own dreams, passions, and strengths that help me to know how to write an attractive application and potentially win a scholarship. The first day I found out about the GREAT scholarship, I had a hunch that I would be a GREAT Scholar. If I can do it, you can do it too.
Second, ensure you understand the eligibility requirements and meet them.
Next, develop a strong and well-written application highlighting your strengths and achievements. Read sample applications, and reach out for help and advice from others. The better prepared you are, the more likely you will succeed in your application.
Finally, don't forget to submit your application by the deadline. By following these simple tips, you will increase your chances of being awarded the GREAT scholarship.