Huong finished at Box Hill in late 2014, but she was still dreaming about her BA. Huong went to Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia in 2015, and graduated in July 2016 with a Master in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Read on to see what happens when you have your heart set on something.
Why Swinburne? And why Entrepreneurship and Innovation?
These weren’t sudden decisions! Even while I was studying in my first year at Box Hill Institute, I was wondering how to equip myself with the skills to start a career. In a way, I was quite lost; I wasn’t clear which subjects I needed to pursue or how to fund further HE study. But one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to continue to work in a sector that had social impact.
Coincidentally, I was invited to attend the Global Shifts: Social Enterprise Conference at RMIT. There I was, listening to one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Pamela from Oxford University, speaking about Social Entrepreneurship, and at that very moment everything became clear: I wanted to study Entrepreneurship to pursue my dream to continue working for a social enterprise. The hunt for a scholarship began!
Finding a way
My first plan was to transfer from Box Hill Institute (BHI) to RMIT and study for a bachelor degree after finishing my course at BHI. However, I could not get enough credits nor a scholarship, so I started to look for opportunities at other universities.
During my second year at BHI, my teacher, John Ferrito, was constantly urging me into social entrepreneurship as he knew I had worked for KOTO before. He cited Swinburne as having the best entrepreneurship course, ranked in the top 20 globally. My other teacher, Rosemary, also did some research to help me get a scholarship at Swinburne to do a research master’s and these factors set me on that pathway. One day I went to Swinburne campus with a friend who was studying there and I immediately loved the campus vibe. She strongly recommended it, based on her own experience. Swinburne is also well-known in Vietnam; it is the home of all the winners of a well-respected TV show in Vietnam called “The Journey to Olympia Contest” in which the smartest students participate. However, there was a problem: despite all these nudges towards Swinburne, there was no scholarship available for the course I wanted to do.
But I didn’t accept that! In 2014, I made a visit to Swinburne and sat with a course advisor, trying to convince him to give me enough credit for the bachelor degree course that I was going to transfer from BHI, but to no avail. However, when I tried to explain my past experiences, things changed: he was really supportive and advised me to apply straight into the master’s programme, which I did, despite it being extremely unusual for an international student to jump into master’s studies without a bachelor’s. Swinburne’s great flexibility enabled an exemption for my work experience, allowing me to do so with the same amount of time and money that I was supposed to spend on just getting the bachelor degree if I transferred.
I chose Entrepreneurship and Innovation because I love to see how existing social enterprise can apply innovations and creativity to tackle social problems using social business initiatives. Interestingly, I was the first and only Vietnamese student who studied the course back then, and one of very few international students too, as most of the students on that course are local and mature students.