Ethnic minority boy wins British University scholarship

By Binh Minh   May 15, 2023 | 08:23 pm PT
Ethnic minority boy wins British University scholarship
A high school boy fighting thalassemia in central Vietnam has won a free ride to the British University Vietnam.

The scholarship is worth more than VND1 billion (US$42,600).

Vi Thanh Nhat, a 12th grader at Nghe An Ethnic Minority Boarding High School in Nghe An Province, won the Lion's Heart scholarship from BUV, which covers a student's tuition and daily expenditures for three years at university.

"This is light at the end of the tunnel, to realize my university dream," said Nhat, who plans to major in Finance and Accounting.

Nhat learned that he won the scholarship early this month and shared the news first with his form teacher Le Thi Le Hong.

"We exploded with happiness. Nhat has been trying to win this since 10th grade," Hong said.

She said Nhat is a smart and independent student leader.

"Despite his condition, he's always smiling with optimism. He has this positive energy any time he joins an activity at school," said Hong.

Vi Thanh Nhat at Nghe An Ethnic Minority Boarding High School in Nghe An Province on May 12, 2023. Photo courtesy of Nhat.

Vi Thanh Nhat at Nghe An Ethnic Minority Boarding High School in Nghe An Province on May 12, 2023. Photo courtesy of Vi Thanh Nhat

The boy from the Thai ethnic minority group was diagnosed with thalassemia, a blood disorder, when he was 4.

He spends 7-10 days out of every month at the hospital in Hanoi receiving blood transfusions and chelation therapy. The visits cost him VND3-4 million each time. He began traveling to the hospital alone in sixth-grade to save his parents' money. As farmers, their income has never been stable, Nhat said.

Hong said Nhat's monthly visits to the capital (some 300 km away) have not hindered his marks, which consistently rank him among the top performers in his class.

'Change my destiny'

When asked about bullies at school who tease him because of his condition, Nhat answered with strength, determination and optimism.

"I don't pay attention to that," he said. "I've decided that the only way to change my destiny and escape poverty is to study hard."

Nhat’s high school is 60 km from his parent’s rural home, so he lives in a dorm with other boarding students, and he only comes home two or three times a year for big holidays. On the occasion that his illness makes him too weak to travel by himself, his teachers accompany him to Hanoi.

He always brings his schoolbooks to study at the hospital, and he's also a voracious online reader. He makes sure his schoolwork is uninterrupted even during his long hospital stays by studying any chance he gets, even with a needle in his arm during transfusions.

Nhat's mother Luong Thi Phuong described her son as somewhat of a study-aholic.

"He loves study. Sometimes I felt pity for him and asked him to take a break, but he would not listen."

Phuong said that after spending so much time in the hospital as a boy, Nhat's first childhood dream was to become a doctor. But growing up and realizing his health wouldn't allow it, he's decided to become an auditor instead, she said.

Nhat has been researching university scholarships since he began high school. He's narrowed his search to schools near the National Institute of Hematology & Blood Transfusion in Hanoi's Cau Giay District, where he receives his thalassemia treatment.

In his application to the British University Vietnam, Nhat wrote that he wanted his life's journey to serve as inspiration for his friends back home. He wrote that he particularly wanted to help people from ethnic minority communities with health problems.

"Many people told me that I am wasting my time studying as I'll be too weak to do anything, but I want to change that thinking. I will live and contribute to society," Nhat said.

He finished the letter in one month, and it was translated into English by one of his teachers.

At his interview, Nhat was asked about his five-year plan.

"I said that I want to become an inspirational figure," the boy said.

"Looking back at my difficult journey, I can smile and thank myself for never giving up."

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