The annual exam season in Vietnam is also the time when many people do everything in their power to help students while they are preparing for the tests.
It is the time when students have to leave their hometowns for less than a week to attend a national exam in major towns and cities both to graduate from high school and gain admission to college.
This year the exam falls on July 1-4.
Kind families in these towns and cities often offer assistance to the students unable to afford hotels by providing complimentary lodging in their houses and even business spaces such as coffee shops.
And to show their gratitude for the help, many students return to visit the families and ask to call those helpers their ‘adoptive parents.’
Helping poor students during the exam season has become familiar to many families in urban towns and cities.
Nguyen Thi Hue is a case in point. Her house at 271 Bung Ong Thoan Street in Tang Nhon Phu B Ward, District 9, Ho Chi Minh City has been home to hundreds of students in the last eight years.
This year’s exam, she has registered to lodge 50 students and their parents.
“My family used to live in poverty and harsh conditions before so I thoroughly understand the need of these students,” Hue said. “After learning that some students had to pay exorbitant hotel prices during the peak exam time years ago, I decided to help.”
She added that she had to save up months before this exam to have VND30 million (US$1,400) to offer free food to the students.
Nguyen Thi Cam Tien, a student from Xuan Loc District in the southern province of Dong Nai, about 100km from Ho Chi Minh City, recalled, “My mother accompanied me to this exam in Ho Chi Minh City and we have just VND1 million [$46] for transport, food, and accommodation.
“Volunteers in the city took me here to have free accommodation and food at Ms. Hue’s.
“I am happy with this help.”
A relative of a student said they can save some million dong during the exam thanks to the support.
Le Van Khap, who lives on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street in the city’s Binh Thanh District, is another helper.
He offers free accommodation and food to 60 students this exam season. Many volunteers in the city have helped him with the clean-up work and other preparations before admitting the students.
Khap has even promised to award prizes of VND200,000 ($9.2) each to any student who passes the exam.
His sister, Le Thi Ba, has joined him in helping the students as well.
In Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta, many families give the same assistance to such university hopefuls.
Lam Viet Hoa, the owner of the Ngoc coffee shop on 3/2 Street in Ninh Kieu District, decided to close the 200 square meter store for a while to provide space for poor students to stay for several days during the exam.
She said she is able to lodge 40-50 students this year.
This coffee shop has always closed down during the exam days in the last ten consecutive years.
Besides homeowners, other ‘adoptive parents’ also join hands to give free rides to carry exam takers from bus stations to their houses.
Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, the manager of the vegetarian restaurant Minh Hien at 82/2 Mau Than Street in Ninh Kieu, managed to raise a fund to give 4,000 free meals to poor students.
Vu Ngoc Hai Van, 31, has put together a team of 28 volunteers to ride students for free from bus stations to pagodas and other households for free lodging.
Dang Duy Minh, 52, living on Tran Nguyen Han Street in the Nha Trang beach city in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, even uses his four-floor house to help such students during these days.