Switching disciplines

Enrolling in a four-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Van Hien University seemed like a natural idea to Hoang, a retired Vietnamese literature teacher. How else could she fill her time in retirement and keep her mind fit and focused?

Her friends and family, however, were a bit more skeptical. Still, Hoang was not deterred.   

“All retirees need to find a way to spend their time. For me, travelling to classes is a source of happiness.”

According to Hoang, old age shouldn’t force people to stay at home and avoid physical activity. Such an attitude is why she chose to sign up for an MBA program in Ho Chi Minh City that would require her to travel roughly 200 kilometers round trip by bus to attend classes.

“There were no online programs in [Vietnamese] literature, so I began looking into other disciplines and finally chose an online bachelor’s program in business administration, as it offers practical knowledge.”

After completing her bachelor’s, Hoang decided to take on the challenge of an MBA. To Hoang, the commuting is merely a small obstacle.  

“Many of my classmates who lived far from the classroom still managed to show up despite having childcare duties. I think I had it much easier,’ she explained.

“Besides, I chose to do it so I had to stick it out until the end.”

For her graduation thesis, Hoang focused on the satisfaction of visitors to Dong Hoa Hiep Village, a tourism site located just 12 kilometers from her house that she only learned about after overhearing a conversation between a bus driver and another passenger.

“The fact that it’s near my house made it convenient to study, but really I just wanted to do something to help publicize the village to tourists,” she said.

Pham Kim Hoang defends her MBA thesis at Van Hien University in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Van Hien University.
Pham Kim Hoang defends her MBA thesis at Van Hien University in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Van Hien University.

Hurdles and rewards

Given her literature background, Hoang felt like a fish out of water when she walked into many of the math classes required for her program.  

According to Hoang, at 71 years old, her capacity to learn is not as sharp as it used to be, but her desire to learn is unmatched.

Such desire led her to rely on assistance from professors to better understand formulas, terminology, and how to use technology in her reports. 

“I had to use online tutorials on how to insert photos and graphs into document, but I still couldn’t figure it out!” she said.

Elevating her technical prowess to the point where she could actually finish her thesis was a particularly challenging hurdle, but with the help of her classmates and professors, she was able to finish the document and earn a score of 7.4. 

Now, with a master’s degree in hand, she is now able to provide business consultation for her children and grandchildren.

But that is not the end of her learning journey. Her next goal is to tackle the English language.

“As long as there is a will, no challenge is unsurmountable.” 

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