Poland welcomes Vietnamese
Pursuing an overseas education is the dream of many Vietnamese students who wish to get a step ahead using the prestige of a foreign qualification. Since the seventies, aspiring learners have been heading to Poland from Vieät Nam, and the positive impress
Most Vietnamese believe their future lies in the way they are trained, that the power of knowledge over-rides all physical matters. They also know they can get better paid jobs with a higher education degree.
So when you talk to young students, they all seem to want to spend some time studying abroad, either as exchange students or pursuing a higher degree.
We visited the University of Warsaw recently and met a 20year-old exchange student from Vieät Nam in its International Relations Office.
"I love everything here in Poland," says Ñoã Leâ Taân, a student from Haø Noäi University of Science and Technology majoring in environmental geography studies.
"From the minute I landed at the airport," he says, "I absolutely loved the green foliage of the trees in Warsaw. It's very peaceful!"
An exchange student for only one year, Taân says he tries to travel out of the country as much as possible.
Poland is no longer a dream destination for Vietnamese students. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Poland and Vieät Nam signed an education and labour agreement that attracted hundreds of students to Poland every year to study in colleges or learn a craft.
In the early 1990’s the agree- ment ended and the number of Vietnamese students fell dramatically, but they left good impressions in the minds of Polish professors.
The University of Warsaw now administers several scholarship programmes, including the Europeran Erasmus Mundus, which allows Asian students to study in Polish institutions for one year or more.
As a result, Taân was more than welcome when he arrived in the country. But in return, he has also worked hard to leave behind his own good impressions.
As we walked up the stairs at the university, a sign states that
Frederic Chopin's father once studied music there. In the highceiling office of an establishment about to celebrate its 200th anniversary, Klementyna Kielak, head of the International ShortTerm Students Section, says, "We are looking for more students from Vieät Nam."
Kielak says the school offers scholarships and tuition-free programmes for PhD degrees and it also offers other full-degree programmes in English.
"The professors are wonderful," Taân adds. "Whenever I ask them questions, they spare no effort to help me find the answers. They speak English, Russian and Dutch. I recommend that Vietnamese students study in Warsaw."
Like any student coming from a modest background in Vieät Nam, Taân is practical and knows why he is in a foreign country. "Life here is peaceful and the living costs are affordable," Taân says, "So I can save more from my scholarship. During my time here, I've been to Paris, Berlin, Rome, but I like Warsaw most because I really feel safe and peaceful. And I'm here to study, I need to focus on my work.
"Polish people are devout Catholics. They believe in God and they tend only to do good deeds. The Vietnamese community here is quite strong and I feel very connected. Vietnamese food is also available and I can have it whenever I miss home.
"I have not travelled much in Poland, I've been to Zakopane, a beautiful snow-capped mountain region. Poland was heavily destroyed during World War II and Warsaw was bombed to the ground, and they had rebuilt it from scratch and I really admire them."
Taân says his programme is not difficult, but he is actively involved. He said that he joined a master's course in English in Vieät Nam, so he was not overwhelmed by the programme. Polish friends are also very helpful.
"The weather is dry cold, very different from the humid damp climate at home, but I'm young, so it doesn't matter at all, really. The only unpleasant time here is when snow melts," Taân says.
"Sometimes the snow can be a metre deep - and it's very cold. The first snow can be very beautiful and romantic, but when it melts in January and February, it can get very dirty.
"When it's too cold, I cook in my dorm, which is good, I can sleep-in all day and allow myself to be lazy!"
"Many people say that the Polish language is one of the most difficult languages in the world," Taân says. "But if you're confident, then you're not afraid of speaking it.
"I had a short course in Polish when I first got here," Taân says. "At the end of it, I was still very clumsy and could not speak well. But I tried every chance to speak in supermakets, to the dorm superintendent or when asking for directions.
"Young people here speak English well, but the older generations speak only Polish or German, or Russian. So it makes my life much easier if I can speak Polish. I made a lot of mistakes when I speak to the door lady at my dorm, but she does not mind at all. She even teased me! You see, when we try to speak their language, they know that you care!"
As a student, Taân has visited many countries in Europe during his 10-month stay. "I've been to France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania, Greece and Austria.
"The most impressive country for me was Austria. It is rich and beautiful. The magnificent historical buildings are well preserved and the environment is well protected. I was most impressed when I was on the train travelling from Vienna to Salzburg on a sunny October day, the fields spread out peacefully with wooden houses hidden in the forest and cows grazing nearby."
Taân says he stays in touch with his parents via Skype chats. "When I asked if they would like me to cook some Polish dishes when I get home, they said no, we're full. Just bring yourself here!"
Polish universities say thay would like to have more students from Viet Nam like Ñoã Leâ Taân, who works hard, integrates well and above all, dares to make mistakes to learn the local language.
Jagiellonyan University, Poland’s oldest higher education establishment in Krakow, celebrated its 650th anniversary last May. Colleges and universities in Krakow provide young professionals for an IT park in the city.