Coffee With Do Quy Duong

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Do Quy Duong studied for a Master’s degree in International Development at Monash University. We caught-up for a virtual coffee.

What made you choose Monash and Melbourne to Study and how was your experience?

I did not choose Monash initially after I was awarded an Australian government scholarship in 2013. Indeed, the university’s selection committee carefully reviewed my application and offered their unconditional admission after I was rejected by another G8 university. Thinking about it, I trust being at Monash and in Melbourne are one of my best life decisions.

Being one of the G8 universities, Monash has an advantage in their reputation. But let me tell you it goes way beyond their reputation that matters to my learning journey. Monash has some of the great thinkers in their respective fields that I was so blessed to learn from. I entirely indulged myself in learning about migration governance, development practice, human rights and gender studies from the leading scholars at Monash. The learning was undeniably tough, yet highly rewarding. Monash also offered a flexible programme that allowed us to take courses across disciplines and expand our analytical skills. As an International Development student, I decided to enrol in laws and international relations courses, and decided to do a one-year research project in my second year. My course coordinator and academic supervisors were also a critical factor that made my Monash journey fulfilling. They were fully supportive of my PhD plan right from the beginning, helped me navigate the PhD application and wrote me recommendation letters that subsequently got me a PhD scholarship at the National University of Singapore upon my completion at Monash.

As for Melbourne city, this is simply “the place to be” for international students. The city is extremely rich in its cultural heritage, with museums, alternative cinemas, music clubs and bistro café. They have amazing beaches and wildlife that are inside the city (in St Kilda, Brighton, Port Melbourne, Williamstown), as well as a number of parks and gardens inside and around the city. The city and the state of Victoria are also among the most multicultural places in Australia. Literally, this is a cultural melting pot, with people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds living and working together. I would not say that this is without any issues as cultural clashes and everyday racism exist in Melbourne like in other places. But being in such a culturally diverse society made me realise so much about my own cultural heritage, and respect and embrace multiculturalism. 

What are you doing now for a living?

I am currently a full-time PhD researcher at the National University of Singapore. Apart from being a PhD researcher and teaching assistant, I also serve as a research fellow in other research projects, as well as a freelance consultant for NGOs and government agencies in Vietnam.

How Monash and your degree impact your lives and that of others?

Without a master’s degree from Monash, I would not be able to pursue the next step of being a PhD researcher. But that goes without saying that being a Monash alumnus impacted me in other ways. My academic skills were greatly improved after two years. My professional networks, global perspectives and multicultural competency were expanded and enhanced as I was learning with students from forty-plus countries in my course. I became a passionate and self-motivated learner upon my graduation and took this spirit with me in my current PhD training. Through Monash and their degree, I also developed my research skills and a social responsibility to advocate for the less fortunate through critical research, and public engagement through writing and public talks. I also assisted and mentored other interested students to apply for Monash as well as to excel in the same course that I did. 

What are your five favourite things during your time in Melbourne?

Multiculturalism: from food to language to festivals, this is a place that everyone can learn how to co-exist, exchange ideas and values, and contribute to its rich and diverse cultural heritage. Indeed, I was so happy that I could speak Vietnamese and enjoyed home food in a certain neighbourhood and restaurants in Melbourne. It does make the city feel a lot more homely and cosy.

Its hidden shops and cinemas: Melbourne is intrinsically different from other cities like Sydney, Perth or Canberra because it has real hidden gems that one has to live long enough to know. Coming from Hanoi, I was blessed that this city has an amazing number of alternative art spaces, and I found Melbourne similar in this sense. From alternative cinemas to exquisite bakeries and restaurants, and even shopping centres off the main roads in many neighbourhoods, Melbourne has the charm I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Its nature and wildlife: it did not take one much effort to be in touch with nature and wildlife in Melbourne. There are parks and beaches in the city where one can easily spot wildlife such as possums, a variety of birds and even penguins (in St Kilda beach). There is a deliberate attempt in protecting nature and mastery in integrating nature into the urban structure in Melbourne. And for those who wish to venture out of the city core, mountain ranges and pristine beaches are plenty to be found.

Tram and bus drivers: they are the most friendly and happy-go-lucky people I have ever met. In fact, I was always more excited to say “Hello” and “Thank you” with these friendliest drivers/conductors than arriving at the destinations. We do not observe this culture very much in Vietnam and Singapore (although in recent years I have met really friendly and considerate drivers in Singapore).

Op shops and Gumtree for those with a tight budget: yes I am so blessed to have tried this in Melbourne. As international students, many of us had to be conservative with our budgets and opted for part-time jobs to supplement our incomes. Buying second-hand and good-to-use furniture, household items, books, music CDs and anything you need from Op shops and Gumtree are a great budget saver. And the best part is that proceeds from those Op shops will be spent on charity activities, and by recycling these items you also reduce wastes and save the earth from irresponsible consumption. 

What are your top five tips for international students?

Choosing your relevant institution and programme carefully. At the postgraduate level, your selection should be informed by your career goals. It is a big-time and financial investment, and it comes with other opportunity costs too. Therefore, choose wisely by doing careful research, asking other senior students or alumni, or emailing the university and course coordinators and requesting an informational interview. Do not just go for the university brand, but choose the course that is most suitable for your goals and do it well.

Treating your study as your job. As you embark on the learning, it is common to get lost and feel disoriented. There might be doubts about whether what you learn will eventually benefit your future. This is something every student will experience at some point in their journey. When you feel so, remind yourself why you chose this course by reading your admission applications to refresh your memory and think about your future goals and career pathway. Make a daily routine for your study time and other tasks. Make your study area free from distractions. Treat study the way you would with your job and you will be able to hold your motivation as you progress.

Taking self-care and Seeking help. At times, you may encounter adaptation or academic challenges that can greatly compromise your ability to focus and study. It is therefore important that you take good care of your well-being to prevent this. Set aside sufficient time for sleeping and exercising, socialising with friends, doing some part-time or voluntary work, and eating healthy. If you start seeing negative about yourself or seeing your academic performance stagnate, do not hesitate to seek help from your course coordinators, friends and even university counsellors.

Expanding your horizons. Do not limit yourself to your own discipline or academic experience. Take courses in other programmes to widen your views. Attend workshops and conferences outside your university. Apply for internships or part-time jobs to get new experiences, networks and some income that will make you more hands-on and well-rounded upon your graduation.

Cultivating relationships with your classmates and faculty members. They are your passports to future opportunities, be them academic or professional. They can give you suggestions, point you to contacts or opportunities or even help you with referrals or recommendations. Be honest, be sincere, and practice give and take.