A Vietnamese student in the USA: Educational approaches in Vietnam vs. USA

Before he attended the University of Tampa, Vinh Le worked and studied in the city of Hanoi, Vietnam. Based on his experiences in the United States and Vietnam, he can now confidently say that the two countries approach education very differently.

In Vietnam, Vinh points out that “the student’s not the center of the education system.” (04:42) Instead, classes tend to be more traditional and teacher-focused, where students typically listen to lectures, study their notes, and then write exams.

On the other hand, Vinh has noticed that in the United States “the student [is] the center of the education system.” (05:39) Rather than having a top-down structure in class, teachers act more as facilitators for their students’ learning process. 

While both methodologies provide different ways for students to interact with course materials, Vinh appreciates that in the United States “we are the main driver…the main decision-maker here. We take all of the information and make [decisions] ourselves.” (05:58)

Studying in the USA with English as a second language

Vinh admits that he was worried about English being a potential barrier as a Vietnamese student arriving to the USA. He had taken certification like IELTS but wasn’t completely happy with his mark, so he was asking himself things like “how can I improve it? How can I speak? How can I go [to the USA]?” (07:23)

At the same time, he felt that he’d be able to immerse himself in American culture and improve his English a great deal once he arrived.

Throughout his studies at the University of Tampa, Vinh was able to gain a lot of confidence in his English. He singles out a memorable experience during a debate where he felt a lot of support from his community:

“I was on stage looking down [at my] friends and professor, and they [were] all looking at me like really really focused…and [not judging me] or anything but just [trying to] understand what I [was] saying.” (07:52

The University of Tampa’s graduate assistantship

Vinh was awarded a graduate assistantship (GA) for his studies at the University of Tampa. Through the GA program, full-time graduate students can receive a tuition waiver for 36 credit hours as well as a stipend every semester. In return, GA students work for 20 hours per week in the university’s academic or administrative offices.

Vinh was extremely grateful for this opportunity because “[his] program consisted of 44 credit hours, so [he] just had to pay for [his] 8 credits.” (12:00)

He also had a great experience in his work placement at the Graduate and Continuing Studies Office. He developed a close relationship with his boss who was “really nice…a really good leader and a good guide [for him].” (12:42)

The graduate assistantship scholarships are merit-based and by invitation only. The University of Tampa gives out about 60 GAs for master’s students each year. 

Getting the best of both cultures

Vinh has grown a lot as a person through his time at the University of Tampa. He admits that the move was “a long jump” for him and that when he arrived “sometimes [he was really] conservative about [his] culture.” (15:17)

Now, he emphasizes that he’s a totally different person than he was just two years ago. He feels that he’s been able to “get the best [both] both worlds and enjoy [his] time.” (16:39)

Specifically, he describes that he’s “learned a lot, [built] a large network, [enriched] his English, and [become] more open-minded about things.” (15:29) It truly goes to show that graduate studies abroad are a great way to invest in your personal development as well as your professional development.