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Valedictorian couple say Vietnam is motivation behind their success overseas

Thursday, February 11, 2016, 11:10 GMT+7

Huynh Ngoc Chau and Dao The Phuong, who got married in 2015, were both valedictorians in Japan and Canada, respectively, years ago.

In April 2008, Huynh Ngoc Chau was recognized as the first ever foreign student to graduate with the highest all around academic marks from the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

Her name appeared in many newspapers in Vietnam and Japan at that time.

The former student of Le Quy Don High School in Ho Chi Minh City later received a full scholarship from the Japanese government to study in master’s and PhD programs in chemistry and materials technology.

To her friends, Chau was a hard-working, smart student who always topped the class during her school years.

Despite majoring in research and having a busy study schedule, the Vietnamese girl has been one of the most dynamic, enthusiastic people and someone who happily participates in multiple community activities.

Her husband, Dao The Phuong, former student of Le Hong Phong High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City, was also a valedictorian in his computer science major at Carleton University in Canada.

Phuong obtained his PhD degree in science in Canada in 2012 and is currently a researcher in systems biology at the U.S. National Institute of Health.

Chau completed her PhD program in Japan in 2013 and is now an expert at a cosmetics corporation based in the East Asian country.

The couple, who both studied at Nguyen Du Middle School in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City, had overcome space and time to get married in March 2015.

“Many people told us that we had luck to become valedictorians, but in truth it was a great effort,” Chau said.

Both struggled with language and cultural barriers in the first few years of living abroad.

Chau recalled some ‘terrible’ moments when she did not understand her lecturers’ lessons, while her classmates were all highly intelligent, talented Japanese students.

At the age of 19, Phuong became an overseas student without any relatives or friends in Canada.

The 33-year-old said despite many pressures, he always enjoys talking to his family members in Vietnam or discussing professional topics with his friends on weekends.

“I wanted to try my best to prove that Vietnamese are as talented as other people in the world,” Chau said, sharing the motivation which helped her become the Honorary Friendship Ambassador for Kyoto Prefecture, as well as the vice chairman of the Vietnamese student community in Kyoto.

Chau and Phuong are now invited to present their research at many prestigious conferences organized by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information, the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, or the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands, as well as the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

“Besides our passion and effort, Vietnam is part of the motivation for our success,” they both said.

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