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Vietnamese youth opt for gap years to mature

27 July 2012
27 Jul 2012 - ,

The News Gateway of Vietnam looks at how young people have chosen to spend a year or two to travel, get involved and discover themselves – going off daily pace.

After graduating from a Singaporean high school in November 2009, Khoi Nguyen (then 19) returned to Vietnam on a holiday before continuing his study in the US. He joined the international volunteer group YMCA and traveled to teach in the Mekong Delta.

After witnessing a simple life and learning several new things from people he met, Nguyen realized he had been living a monotone life where he only made books his best friends. He then decided to send an email to his school in the US and postpone his enrolment.

“After the trip, I realized many young people are smart and hardworking. What they lack is information and chance,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen collected all the money earned from jobs like web administrator and sales assistant at a bookstore to do what his heart told him to. Within two years, he returned to the Mekong Delta to teach poor children, went to the central highlands to help locals who were victims of a flood, and sought donations and handed them directly to those caught in a draught in the mountainous province of Ha Giang.

“Sometimes I feel frustrated as my friends have started to work and earn money. However, I do not regret my choice. Life is complete when we are courageous enough to live up to our real passion and become responsible for ourselves,” Nguyen said.

In a similar life-changing decision, Nguyen Gia Ngoc suddenly decided to quit school study to sell cards and teach for free after his first week as a freshman at the Hanoi University of Foreign Trade.

“I was a little rebel of a youngster. However, it was an easy decision when you become doubtful about yourself,” shared Ngoc.

He said he found the meaning of life from simple things: selling all the cards, seeing his students improving every day, joining seminars for young people.

“These activities are like my breath. I can’t stand not doing it for a day,” he said.

Though he has received a scholarship to study at St. John’s University in the U.S. for four years, Ngoc hesitates to go as he still has many volunteer projects Vietnam.

While some choose to take a gap year when they are a high school or college student, Thanh Viet (then 22) took a year off to join different courses like diving and parachuting instead of finding a job after graduating in Japan in 2009.

“Even though it was quite late, I still wanted to do a gap year as I found myself lacking several skills,” said Viet.

He now can tell why waters are clear or muddy, how to respire and keep his body temperature underwater, and is no longer afraid of heights.

To earn money to support his hobbies, Viet translated books at home and once worked as a butler at a resort. He also spent time on backpacking trips to see more beautiful areas of the country.

A gap year indeed is an opportunity for young people to discover who they are and what they want in life.

“Over the years, I was around home, school then cram class. Every step I took was already planned. What do I really need and want?” recalled Anh Thu (19)

In 2010, after receiving advice from members of Vietabroader– an association of Vietnamese students in the US on gap year, Thu chose to take a year off and got involved in skill-training seminars and community service.

“Through having an opportunity to interact with friends from around the world, my thinking also has changed. It has helped me to navigate my life,” said Thu, who is now a freshman at Franklin & Marshall College (US).

“Coming to the age of 18, many young people do not know what career is right for them. Compared with spending four years to study and then finding yourself inappropriate for a job you have to work for the rest of your whole life, a gap year is not an expensive price to pay.”

Source: The News Gateway of Vietnam