Associate Degree of Commerce

Congratulations to Huong Dang Thi for being the first recipient of the ‘Victorian International Student of the Year’ award and also the ‘Premier’s Award – International Student of the Year’ at the Victorian International Education Awards 2013. The Victorian International Education Student categories seek to recognise international students and celebrate their outstanding contribution to Victoria. As the recipient of these awards, Huong will receive a $20,000 scholarship towards study related expenses at a Victorian educational institution.

Fourteen years ago when I was at 7th grade, my teacher asked me what do I want now and what I would like to do in the future. I told her that I had just one dream and that was to keep studying at school as many other kids could do. I went home and discussed that topic with Mom, she said nothing but her sad eyes told me that my dream would never come true.

At the age of 12, I had to stop my schooling despite my dream of becoming a literature teacher. I felt like it was the end of the world. I had finished my seventh grade and had a dream of continuing my studies during the summer holiday, but soon we were made aware that my Mum was facing a kidney infection. She began to cry all the time when we discussed the future of my studies. I had no excuse but to accept her decision.

As a 13 year-old girl, I came to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, by myself, in the hope of earning some income to support Mum and my siblings to allow them to continue their education. My first job in Hanoi was taking care of a four-month old baby. I earned 150,000 VND (about ten Australian dollars) per month and the entire wage I sent home to my Mum. I knew that I needed further education to seek a better life as, in my mind, I still really wanted to make my dream of becoming a teacher come true.

I decided to attend night classes at a Continuing Education Centre and worked very hard during the day. However, my host, was not happy about me going to school at nights and she kicked me out of her house shortly after I started going to night school. At that time, my Mum became very sick after so many years of hard work. My brother was in college, my sister was at secondary school and they were all depending on me for support. I couldn’t give up.

I didn’t mind what sort of work I did as long as I could continue to study and help my Mum. Luckily, I met a girl in my class who knew something about KOTO and suggested that I apply. I had no idea of what KOTO was all about but decided to visit to see if there might possibly be a safe place remaining as all I wanted was a safe place to live in and complete my high school education.

I became a KOTO Front of House Trainee in 2006. It was a big step and brought a remarkable change in my life. It opened a new door to me for. I seized my opportunities, building my confidence and hope, and I put all my effort in to study and work. In addition, I kept studying at night to try and complete high school and dared to dream of getting to university. I was able to graduate from high school and finished the course at KOTO at the same time. I was well prepared for the hospitality industry, could speak English and knew about essential life skills.

In 2012, I came to Melbourne, Australia for my new journey with Box Hill Institute, to study the Diploma of Business Management as well as taking on the role of Media and Communications Manager for KOTO International as a volunteer. After two years at Box Hill Institute, I am hoping to earn another scholarship to get into RMIT Melbourne for my Bachelor of Business Entrepreneurship.