My name is Sean. I’m an American from Boston. Boston is about a four hour drive from New York City. I’ve been living in Vinh City for five years. I’m married to a beautiful Vietnamese woman. Her name is Thuy. We just had our first child. His name is William. He’s half Vietnamese and half American. You can call him Amerinese or Vietnamerican. Whichever you prefer.
I’m going to tell you a story. In this story you’ll learn some ways to get better at English, how to become a better student and how to someday become a better human being.
This is a story about Han. He’s a college student in Canada. Han is from Vietnam and he chose to study abroad. He goes to a college in Toronto called Humber College. Students from 138 countries study there. More than 71,000 students apply to study at Humber College every year. Eighty-three percent of students who graduate from Humber College find a job within six months of graduation.
I didn’t write this story. Han wrote it. Continue reading to learn more about Han.
I had a dream of becoming a game programmer since I was eight. Everything started right at the moment when I received my first computer, and that dream followed me every day from then until now. When I was younger, I played games a lot. I played so much that I was good enough to go on tournaments and make money for my tuition.
Nevertheless, I gave up on these competitions during my graduation year. That was also the time I recognized that playing games is not the right way to be a game programmer. I realized that I have to work hard to achieve what I want. First, I did not think that I would study abroad, but “the awakening” changed my mind. My country is not very good at technology so I decided to go abroad to study game programming. That decision has been the greatest step in my life so far.
Next, I started to research the best to study for my career: Australia? Too expensive. How about America? Already too many people went there. Luckily, I found Canada, specifically Toronto, where there is a lot of great game development opportunities, and Humber College became my destination.
Leaving my family and friends behind to find a new path was extremely awful for a person like me, and it was even worse when I lost my passport, visa, and study permit hours after I arrived here. If that wasn’t enough, it was snowing that night. I could not think of anything but the freezing weather; that was the reason why I forgot the documents on the train. Being away from the familiar things and alone in a strange country, knowing no one here, feeling cold while unfortunate things kept happening to me, I almost gave up and went home.
However, I suddenly remembered a Holly Memphis quote: “If no one comes from the future to stop you from doing it then how bad a decision can it really be?” Thanks to that quote, I calmed down, reported my missing documents to the police and began my plan all over again. Not long after that, miracle happened; the police called me to inform that they had found my lost items and asked me to pick them up. Since that moment, my journey turned to a new page.
Even so, I still had challenges. Communication had never been a problem until I got into my first semester at Humber. People talked really quickly and used too much specialized vocabulary about technology; I felt stunned and started to be afraid of talking with others. Every school day was a nightmare; I could not understand what my classmates said nor their jokes, even with my professors’ slow-speed talking, I still had trouble understanding.
As I mentioned before, my country’s technology industry is not as good, so I could not keep up with the knowledge that I was learning. Along with the language barrier, all of these difficulties made me so far behind compared with others. However, I luckily made new friends. Hanging out with them helped me improve my English as well as my studying. As a result, I finally caught up with everyone and became more confident when talking to others.
Going through all of those challenges, I now enjoy every day studying at Humber College. Humber frequently has a lot of interesting events during lunch time such as iPod Battle (my favourite one), free food for students, indoor sports events, and more.
Still, that is not everything. In my program, Humber has given me so many opportunities by letting me know about and attend gaming events that are very useful for my learning and career: for example, Gamercamp, EdAppHack, and GCA. The students in my program also hold several events, such as Gameapalooza, where people from different programs can make friends and share gaming experience. Thank to these occasions, we are able to work together better to create games that we want, which is a wonderful thing. In addition, I am also a member of the Humber Vietnamese Association. Talking and hanging out with them makes me feel like I am at home. The most recent event of the group that I participated in was the “Mid-Autumn Festival.”
Everything in Canada has not been the same as I had imagined it. Living alone, far away from home, is both challenging and interesting at the same time. After months living here, I now can handle everything on my own, and the ways I think and behave have become much more mature. That is how I grew up; I am happy with myself so far. The more effort I give, the more successful I will be.
Even if you don’t want to be a game programmer, there are lessons to learn from Han’s story. He said, “you have to work hard to achieve what you want”. So, if you want to get better at English, you have to try really hard. If you want to be a singer, you have to try really hard. If you want to be a football player, what do you have to do? Try really hard.
To become better at English, he said you should have English speaking friends. Where can you make English speaking friends in this part of Vietnam? Actually that’s really difficult. You should go online to make English speaking friends. You can chat online with people from all over the world who speak English. This will improve your English speaking skills and your self-confidence. You can make friends your age and talk about all kinds of things with them. Such as, football, computer games or pop stars. How do you do this? You can go to my website, seanlaurence.com. At the top, go to Featured. Then go to “Talk to yourself in the shower and other ways to get better at speaking in English”. I have some recommendations of where to find a language partner there.
Thank you for reading this and in Han’s words, “work hard to achieve what you want”.
I read about Han on Your Humber World. It’s a website which shares the stories of the students who go to Humber College. Here’s a link to, “Student Success Story: Han Duong (Vietnam)”.
Learn more about Vietnamese students who have studied abroad: