Anh is from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and is currently studying a Bachelor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus. She has been in Queensland for 3 years and is enjoying pursuing her dream to become a research scientist.
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What made you want to study abroad?
It happened for various reasons, I want to explore the opportunities that are available to me. I’ve had a passion for chemistry since I was 5 years old, and the only way to achieve my dream is by working in the lab. Where there’s passion, there will be sacrifices.
I chose a very tough pathway because it requires a long study time and rock-solid experience to be able to work in the industry. But for the sake of broadening my horizon, I thought that studying abroad might be one of the ways to achieve that. Also, I had family members living abroad as well, therefore it wasn’t unfamiliar to me.
When I was a kid, I went to an international primary school where we learnt half English and half Vietnamese. My family realised that I had a talent for science subjects and English. You might not believe it, but they had the intention of sending me to study abroad since then, and they just waited patiently until I felt ready to go.
Why did you choose Griffith University?
This was an unusual story – when I did my IELTS test my score was 6.5, which was not enough for enrolling in any Bachelor of Pharmacy at an Australian university. I was so lucky because my agency found that I could study the Bachelor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Griffith, and then I could transfer into pharmacy later if I wanted to. Once I looked into this new degree, I realised that this was going to be a degree that I want to study and enjoy, and I preferred it to the Bachelor of Pharmacy.
Griffith has a career path that fits almost perfectly with what I want to do after all my studies, with the Bachelor of Pharmacology and Toxicology. I always had a passion for research, especially in pharmaceuticals and science. I completed one and a half years of a Bachelor of Pharmacy program back in Vietnam, but then later on figured out that I have an unexplainable ambition towards the laboratory setting, after doing various courses involving lab work. I decided to give it some thought. After making up my mind, I discussed this matter with my whole family, surprisingly they are all very supportive of my choice. Now looking back, I am really proud of myself for trying my best.
What do you love most about your life in Queensland?
The sunny weather is so similar to Vietnam – luckily it wasn’t extreme like Victoria or Tasmania, so I wasn’t having a hard time adapting to the new weather.
The people here are so friendly. I still remember the first day my Dad and I set foot on the Gold Coast – we were disoriented and lost. Fortunately, there was a lady who came out of nowhere and showed us the way to our hotel, and how to call a taxi. Even though it was a small thing, that experience stayed with me forever.
I also love the beaches. I’m staying in a house with an amazing landlady, and her house is only about 10 minutes away from the beach!
What was your biggest fear about starting your student journey?
Being alone mostly. When I first came here, I had thought that no one was going to help me and that I would have to do everything by myself.
When you are used to living with your parents and suddenly they are nowhere near you anymore, you have to do everything by yourself. I still have stress from time to time, for example worrying about what to bring to work for lunch now and then. I also worried about how to manage my studies and life at the same time. It might sound very trivial to some, but for me, it was a struggle. For example, what food should I make for lunch, I had to do laundry on the days other roommates didn’t, where to find resources or help for my studies and so on. But every struggle is valid, despite the fact that some might experience worse than me.
How did you overcome your fear?
I thought that because I’m here, my parents should not need to worry about me anymore and I handled most issues by myself. However, it did cost me my mental health in the beginning. One day, I cried to my Mom and admitted my issues to her. She was surprised because I had never opened up to her about my struggles before, but from then on, we found a way to work on it.
Support – is just one simple word but it has deep meanings. There were definitely ups and downs, but what matters is are you willing to admit and accept it? In my first year, I isolated and kept my struggles to myself without telling anyone, just hoping that they would fade away eventually, and obviously, they did not. Then my parents and other family members said ‘I’m proud of you’. When you are with them they assume you already know, but when you are away, you need something to reassure you, and I can’t express how much joy I had when they said that to me. Now, every time I call my Mom, she always says that she will never stop being proud of me.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve been given countless pieces of advice, but the words that stay with me were from my friend Katherine – she is a medical student and is like a sister to me.
One day I was so stressed about my Honours year, and I told her about that. She just calmly asked me if I could do anything to relieve the stress for next year. I said no, so she said I shouldn’t be worried about it. She told me that the only thing I can change is the present, not the future or the past. If you worry too much about the future, you will overlook the things happening in the present, and that might cost me the future that I was preparing for. If I dwell on the past, I will not be able to move on. Life keeps going on regardless of what happens to you. I have to keep moving. In my case, if I worried too much about next year and I couldn’t focus on this year’s courses, it would haunt me later.
I will always be very thankful for this piece of advice because it keeps me going. Even if I stumble upon mistakes and obstacles, I will always get up and keep moving.
Who in your life has had the most influence on you?
I have to give that credit to myself because I have been consistent with the choices that I made for myself. I cannot count how many times I felt judged for having such an unrealistic dream career. The times that I was trying to prove my self worth is no different from me screaming for attention and recognition.
I was suffering silently by myself for a while, lost, confused, and didn’t know who to turn to. Like I said, I had to give the credit to myself because despite feeling like I was alone, I didn’t give up and fought until the end.
My whole family influence me, despite being hesitant about me pursuing a career in research, they support me in my studies. T
he other person that I want to mention is my cousin – she showed me the beauty in chemistry and certainly made an impact on my decisions. She actually helped me discover my talent for chemistry and I was very surprised to find that I can study chemistry very well.
What has been a key moment in your life as an international student?
The key moment might be the time that I was chosen to be in the Griffith International brochure. This meant so much to me because I used to feel underestimated and under-appreciated no matter how hard I tried, my work was overlooked. But this experience might sound unimportant to others but it meant the world to me. I cannot thank Griffith International enough for recognising my effort and listening to my stories.
Another experience was when I had to enrol in the courses for one trimester, and I just happened to pick a course called ‘3225ENV: Natural Products and NMR’. The course was taught by Professor Anthony Carroll, who is the greatest natural product chemist that I’ve known. It was definitely challenging when doing the course because I had little to no experience in working with natural products. I was surprisingly doing quite well towards the end of the trimester, despite several hiccups along the way. Thanks to the knowledge gained from that course, I managed to pass one course easily, while in others I struggled to understand the content. I worked so hard when doing the natural product course, it paid off when I enrolled in a similar course later on.
Do you do any volunteer or extra-curricular activities?
I’ve done countless volunteer hours during my time at Griffith University. I don’t know how to stress enough the importance of volunteering. I think it’s the reason why I got my casual job that I’m working in at the moment.
I felt like instead of sitting around doing nothing in between studies, I could make myself useful and participate in volunteer work. The beauty of doing volunteer work is not about the money, but the happiness that you bring to people. It warms my heart knowing that I managed to help someone. I have been a Peer Mentor for the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences for 2 years now, every trimester since my second year. Through those times, I branched out my networking and got to know the staff in the school. From getting to know them, I told them about what I wanted to do after graduating and they were more than happy to assist or refer me to another staff member that could potentially help me further.
I am also a member of Griffith Mates, which has been an enjoyable experience as well.
I still remember one time I was doing a summer research project with my program director, Dr Santosh Rudrawar. Sometimes I went to the lab before he arrived, I would go into every room that had their door opened, greet them with a ‘Hi’ and then wish them a lovely morning. I even said ‘Hi’ to the staff who never taught me, but thanks my morning greeting, they remembered me. One time I even overheard their conversation that I made their day by just popping in and saying ‘Hi’. Although it’s only a small thing, it was enough to create a good network. Thanks to my networks within the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, I was offered a job as a lab technician at a compounding pharmacy.
Where can we find you at the weekend?
Most of the time I will be at the beach, either swimming or doing beach walking. I also love heading to the local cafes and having brunch with friends, or window shopping at the local shopping centres. Sometimes I got to the gym as well. The uni gym is awesome – they have heaps of equipment that can help you train however you want. They also offer a personal trainer to help you develop a workout plan.
What are your dreams after graduating?
My dream is to become a Research Scientist, where I can collaborate and do interesting research to improve the quality of life of people. I always enjoy helping other people, even if they don’t recognise it was you, but the difference that you made in their life is worth more than any money in this world. Honestly, I’m forever grateful for the volunteer work that I have done, I do believe that it somehow got me to the position that I am in right now.
Chemistry has been my passion since I was 5. I still remember the day that my cousin showed me her chemistry homework while babysitting me. I was amazed and intrigued. Even though I understood nothing at that time, I was fascinated to discover that molecules can be found around us and in us. She then showed me some chemistry reaction videos and just then and there, I realised how beautiful chemistry can be – all the colourful flames when you burn different metals and gases. That moment was the point that I decided to pursue a career in chemistry or involving chemistry.
This dream has led me to my current part-time job as a lab technician in a compounding pharmacy right here on the Gold Coast. Every day, we formulate and compound various types of medicines such as antibiotics, vitamins, and hormonal medications. I’m very happy, despite this is not exactly being the long-term career that I want, it is a great experience and feeds my desire to help others, so I’m very grateful for this job during my studies.
What is your favourite quote?
‘Doing your best is always enough, it only takes one mind to change the world.’
Hear more from Anh:
Instagram – @anh_nahh
HUMANS OF GRIFFITH INTERNATIONAL
At Griffith University, we celebrate diversity and difference. Our community is made up of students from around the globe, all with a unique story to tell.
In this Humans of Griffith series, a selection of our international students have chosen to share their experiences, unedited in their own words – from the challenges of studying abroad, to building community and independence, and their dreams after graduation and beyond.
No matter who you are, or where you are in the world, whatever your study journey, Griffith University is with you all the way. Find out more at griffith.edu.au/international.
Interested in sharing your story? DM us on Instagram @griffithinternational.
View more Humans of Griffith student stories here.