For American high school students, gaining admission to the United States’ top colleges is a difficult process. It’s even more challenging though if you’re a high school student in Vietnam who isn’t familiar with American culture and the U.S. educational system. Khoa Pham, 23, noticed this unmet need for help in navigating the admissions process and formed VietAbroader. The organization provides information, guidance, and networking to make Vietnamese students competitive for admission and scholarships to top U.S. universities. The group also serves as a bridge linking local students in Vietnam with Vietnamese students studying overseas. Since its founding in 2004, VietAbroader has held two conferences attended by more than 1,000 Vietnamese students and parents. In the past two years, over 100 students attending those conferences have gotten admission and scholarships to U.S. colleges. To learn more about how Khoa and VietAbroader are making a U.S. college education attainable for Vietnamese students, check out this week’s Non-profit Spotlight.
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Economics and Political Science
Cambridge Tutors College, U.K.
A Levels in Economics, Math and Accounting
BBC World Service
September 2002-July 2003
About the non-profit
VietAbroader is a student-run, non-profit organization that strives to empower global Vietnamese youth to contribute to Vietnam’s sustainable development.
Our flagship program, VietAbroader Conference: Passing Of the Torch, aims to motivate and train Vietnamese students to become competitive for admission and scholarships into America’s top colleges and to strengthen long-term ties between local students and Vietnamese students abroad.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I am a full-time student at Bates but devote around 25 hours a week to VietAbroader, mostly during the evenings and weekends. Since people are the single most important asset for VietAbroader and our mission, I spend a great deal of my time communicating with other colleagues, recruiting new members and volunteers, as well as establishing relationship with corporations, media and government agencies.
I am also involved in managing VietAbroader’s online forum which provides extensive information and insights on admission and scholarships at U.S. institutions.
Most notable milestones
In less than three years, VietAbroader has paved the way to U.S. higher education for many economically disadvantaged students, while developing a reputation as a popular rendezvous for Vietnamese youth. Here are some of our important achievements:
- VietAbroader successfully organized two conferences in summer 2005 and 2006, attracting more than 1000 students and parents.
- In June 2006, VietAbroader held its first career panel in Ho Chi Minh City to connect overseas students with businesses in Vietnam. Top organizations such as AIG, Colgate, IDG, Intel, TinMay.com, Vietnamworks and VitaJeans.
- More than 100 students attending conferences have received admission and scholarship to American colleges over the last two years.
- VietAbroader’s partners include AIG, Bates College, BP, Connecticut College, Eastern Asia Bank, Gustavus-Adolphus College and United Airlines. We also receive support from the Institute of International Education and U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Vietnam.
What’s the niche?
VietAbroader was initially created to serve as a bridge between Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. and local students in Vietnam. It met a real need of providing information, guidance and network for admissions and scholarship for U.S. colleges and universities, while enabling overseas Vietnamese students to contribute to Vietnam through coordinating meaningful, practical projects.
What’s the biggest challenge?
We want to serve more people and get more stakeholders involved; however, the organization was originally created to serve only a handful of people. Therefore, the biggest challenge is to sustain a healthy growth of our membership network while still maintaining a cohesive, close-knit community.
What’s in store for the future?
Our short term priority is to integrate our volunteers into every aspect of the organization. Right now our focus is the States and the U.K. but we would like to expand VietAbroader to other countries in the long term.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Be open to new ideas, no matter how strange they may sound. Never be afraid to change.
Guiding principle in life
Whenever in doubt about anything, I ask myself one simple question: what would I do right now if I died tomorrow?
Yardstick of success
The single most important measure of success is what specifically our students accomplish and contribute at different stages of their career.
Goal yet to be achieved
Have enough money to open a grant-making foundation that focuses exclusively on helping developing countries grow and sustain their human talents. I believe people are the most important commodity in this century, key to the world’s sustainability and peace.
Best practical advice
We all live because we believe in future. Always have faith in myself and in others.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
From some of my best friends: “Whatever happens, know that we are always here with you. “
My family taught me the importance of family. My friends share with me new perspectives and valuable experience. Both trust and give me unconditional support.
What motivated you to get started?
My friends and I feel lucky being studying abroad and realize the huge potential overseas students can contribute to the country, so we decided to start doing something about it.
Like best about what you do?
I have known and worked with so many interesting individuals from various backgrounds. I wouldn’t trade the world for it.
Like least about what you do?
There are only 24 hours a day!
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A secret agent!
What was your first job?
I got my first job as a waiter and delivery boy for a Chinese restaurant in the U.K.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Reading news from different places.
Person most interested in meeting?
Bill Clinton. I want to experience his inspiration hands-on.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Steve Jobs, because of his boundless determination and undying creativity.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I will have traveled to roughly 20 countries by the age of twenty-five.
- I listen to someone speaking completely different language and can somehow guess what they are talking.
- I can stay up as late as I want without coffee. Actually, coffee makes me sleepy!
Three characteristics that describe you
- Like new challenges
Three greatest passions
“How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life” by Thomas Gilovich
Who would you like to be contacted by?
We are a new organization with a clear mission, a healthy growth and a strong team. We would love to talk to individuals and organizations who have an interest in, or want to make a difference to, any conceivable aspect of Vietnam.
|January 2nd, 2008, 13:31:09
I was very interested to read the interview with Khoa Pham.