Visually impaired Vietnamese lady earned a Master’s degree in Australia

Nguyen Thi Yen Anh, who is visually impaired, has just completed a master’s degree in Australia under the Australia Awards Scholarships program.

On 19 August 2022, a Welcome Home Ceremony was held to welcome Australia Awards scholars returning to Vietnam. The whole audience watched in silence as Nguyen Thi Yen Anh, 30, who recently completed a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Management from La Trobe University, told her story in English.

Among the audience, Mrs. Ho Thi An, 63, quietly observed her daughter. She never thought that one day her daughter would reach this far.


Yen Anh at the Australia Awards Scholarships Alumni Welcome Home Ceremony on August 19 in Hanoi
Yen Anh at the Australia Awards Scholarships (AAS) Alumni Welcome Home Ceremony on August 19 in Hanoi. Photo: Aus4Skills


Born in 1992, Yen Anh did not open her eyes in her first week. Mrs. An took her to see a doctor, and found out that her daughter was born blind. When Yen Anh was a few months old, her mother continued to take her everywhere for treatment, but in vain. Having seen a TV program about an education center for visually impaired children in Hue, she decided to send her 5-year-old daughter to the centre.

“People thought that I didn’t want to raise Bi-a (Yen Anh’s intimate name) and sent her away, but I was really heartbroken. Life was difficult, but I wanted my child to be educated, treated and taken care of, and to mix with friends of same disadvantaged condition,” Ms. An recalled.

Gradually getting used to the new environment, Yen Anh was no longer home-sick or cried. At the centre, she and other children studied braille and got acquainted with Ministry of Education and Training curriculum from grade 1 to grade 3. When they were able to catch up with the pace of study, the children were sent to ordinary schools from grade 4.

There were more than 40 students, including 2-3 visually impaired, in Yen Anh’s class. While listening to the teacher’s lectures, Yen Anh had to take notes in braille. Sometimes she could not write quickly enough, and had to borrow her friend’s notebook and ask the teachers at the centre to read out again to copy. She attended school in the morning, in the afternoon she went to the centre to study with tutors, and she learned alone in the evening. Over her high school years, Yen Anh was recognised for her good study results.

In grade 9, Yen Anh came up with a dream of studying abroad and started learning English. Born not as lucky as her peers, and often teased by people around her, Yen Anh realised that the only way to prove herself was through studying.

“I love learning foreign languages and travelling, and am eager to experience the inclusive education in advanced countries. But for blind students like me, learning English is not easy,” Yen Anh said.

At first, she had to ask her teacher to read out English books to learn from. In grade 12, she had a computer with software that supported screen reading, so she could study English online and practice pronunciation.


Yen Anh and her mother at the AAS Welcome Home Ceremony on August 19 in Hanoi
Yen Anh and her mother, Mrs. Ho Thi An, at the AAS Welcome Home Ceremony on August 19 in Hanoi. Photo: Aus4Skills


Yen Anh graduated with honors in Oriental Studies from Hue University of Science in 2015, and worked at the Thua Thien – Hue Blind Association, in charge of advocacy for blind children. In 2017, she successfully applied for an Australia Awards Scholarship, and after a year of medical treatment in Vietnam, she came to Melbourne, Australia to study in 2020.

Yen Anh was accompanied by her aunt who helped her in daily life, while her mother had to stay home to take care of her sick father.

At first, Yen Anh relied on her aunt to get used to the surrounding environment, but then she used a cane to go to school by herself. After a month and a half of face-to-face learning, Yen Anh had to study online because of the pandemic. “Australia’s education system is different from Vietnam’s, so I was quite confused at first. During the first month of the first semester, every day, I had to sit by the computer for about 10 hours to write. Online learning, lack of communications with friends, lack of ideas, etc, all forced me to try very hard,” Yen Anh shared.

Master’s programs require self-study, but Yen proactively called or emailed her instructors for their guidance when she was not clear about something. She found herself more dynamic, and this way of learning quite effective.

According to Yen Anh, students with visual impairments and disabilities receive great support in Australia. She had a guide who showed her how to travel and get used to means of transport such as trains and buses.

Teachers also sent her learning materials in advance of the courses, so that she had enough time to study. For PDF documents that her computer couldn’t read, the school helped convert them to word files.

Thanks to her hard work and efforts, Yen Anh achieved a GPA of 3.67/4.0.

Returning to Vietnam, Yen Anh wishes to bring support services to schools to help students with visual impairment and disability. With appropriate and timely support, children’s academic performance and outcomes will improve.

Yen Anh advised friends with disability to overcome their adversity and have faith in what they want to do. “Once you have decided what your goal is, you must be persistent in pursuing it, and expect a worthy reward,” she affirmed.

“I faced many difficulties, but I tried hard. Thanks to assistive technology, the support from family, friends, teachers, plus your determination, you will achieve results,” Yen added.

Mrs. An was also happy to hear her daughter talk, feeling glad to see her little Bi-a grown up. “I’m very satisfied,” she said and shared her belief that Yen Anh’s dream of traveling to many countries around the world would come true.

Source: – Bình Minh

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