Nguyen Thi Kim Chi was awarded a British Council Scholarship for Women in STEM in 2021–22 and completed an MSc in Earth Future: Environment, Community and Relationships at University of Glasgow.
Why did you choose the UK as a study destination?
The reason I chose the UK for a higher degree is because the UK is a leading country in education. Furthermore, the rich culture, friendly people and beautiful nature also make the UK the best option to choose. I was fortunate enough to study in the United States at university, and I would love to try to experience a new culture and education in another country to learn the difference. The UK is a study abroad destination for many international students from different countries, and I believe this is one of the most wonderful things when applying for a master's program in the UK. Not only will I learn from teachers at university but also from friends all around the world. As a travelholic, the UK is definitely an attractive destination for me.
Studying in the UK through the British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM programme must have been a valuable experience. What were your motivations to apply for this scholarship among many other prestigious scholarship programmes?
I was really thankful from the moment I saw the information about this prestigious scholarship. It is designed for women, and especially women in STEM field when the number of women participating in these disciplines is very limited. I was more than happy to find a suitable course that I am looking to pursue, which is about people and the environment. At that time, when I had been working for two years and I was also the founder of a youth organisation in Vietnam, I was looking forward to pursuing a more advanced course in the field of sustainable development, to better understand how developed countries apply science and technology to solve environmental problems, and build a better world for people and society. Thus, I decided to apply without hesitation, and I found myself in line with the criteria of the scholarship, and the programme is what I needed.
What is your best experience in the UK?
The two most memorable experiences in the UK are the process of changing the way you study and the experience of celebrating Tet away from home for the first time. In Vietnam, the method of learning is quite passive when the teachers read and students take notes quite a lot. In the UK, students are required to read, self-study and do more research. So, I need to change the way I study in order to catch up with the class as well as a lot of the deadlines. This way of learning has also helped me a lot to learn new things, improving my ability to self-study and critical thinking.
This is also the first time I have not been able to celebrate Tet in Vietnam, so when I looked at photos of people returning home to celebrate Tet with their families, I felt homesick. Fortunately, there is a group of Vietnamese students in Glasgow, we gathered together, cooked traditional dishes on, wore Ao Dai on the first day of Tet. This is absolutely a special and meaningful Tet ever. How did you prepare to apply for British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM 2021? In your opinion, what is the most important factor during the application process?
To prepare for the application process, it is a long process, not just a day or two. Especially for those programs that seek young leaders like British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM, it's important to express yourself as a positive and potential leader. Since college, I have participated in many different programmes at the Foreign Trade University, the U.S. Embassy and Irish Embassy as a coordinator or a team leader. These wonderful experiences helped me learn new skills, and meet many talented people in different fields. This meets one of the criterions that the scholarship is looking for, which is active participation in development programs and future leadership. In addition, two years working for an international NGO made me a potential candidate for the scholarship. One of the most important elements of the application process is the essay. With British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM, the application is simple and does not have many rounds, which also means that you are required to express yourself a few hundred words to express yourself and convince the scholarship board that you are a suitable candidate.
What was the biggest challenge when pursuing a master’s degree in STEM-related fields without a relevant bachelor's degree? What did you do to overcome this challenge?
Although I have participated in different youth activities, I mainly gain experience in developing leadership programs for future leaders to act on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The course is quite heavy in engineering and environment, so I need to spend a lot of time learning new terms, reading more information about the recent environment as well as studying how the world developed. In addition, my bachelor's degree is in Economics and International Business, so I had very little exposure to technical programs or software. There is only one way to overcome these difficulties, which is keeping learning more. The teachers and classmates themselves are always willing to help, so do not be afraid to ask questions or ask for support.
What advice would you give to Vietnamese students who wish to apply for British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM 2022–23?
I myself believe that the most important factor in the application process is to be "yourself". The scholarship is not about finding the most excellent candidate, but rather finding the most suitable person. As long as you can prove that you are the right person that the scholarship programme is looking for, you are halfway to winning the scholarship. In order to do so, the key word is to "be yourself" so you will be different from many others. In addition to stating the strengths and experiences you have, it's important to show what you're still missing and how you will develop better and contribute to the community if you receive the scholarship. These factors will definitely make you different. The application form is simple, but you also need to know how to choose the right elements to express yourself. Last but not least, believe you can do it, because you're halfway there!