Born in 1934, Cao Nhat Linh is the oldest student at Dong Do International University in Hanoi, studying for his first college degree.
Having grown up in a poor family, Linh had to hold off his desire to continue his studies to provide for his family and himself, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
Over the years, Linh has worked different jobs as a construction worker, bricklayer, and carpenter. Whatever job he was doing, Linh would always buy books to read and learn.
When he was a construction worker in 1956 in the northern mountainous province of Son La, he spent his nights reading and studying.
In 1968, Linh registered for a supplementary graduation examination in Hanoi, equivalent to a high school graduation test.
“That exam was a ‘passport’ to continuing my studies later on,” the 84-year-old said.
When he entered his 70s, Linh saw his living conditions improve and had enough time to continue his studies.
As many say age is just a number, Linh did not let his age be an obstacle as he was determined to get himself a college degree.
Hence, when he was 80 he started studying for the national exam to enter college just like any other 18-year-old students.
In 2015 he started attending journalism classes at the Academy for Journalism and Communication.
Two years later, at 83, he tried his luck at Hanoi Law University but missed one point to be accepted.
This setback did not discourage him and he kept on studying.
Later that year, he tried his luck at the Hanoi-based Dong Do International University and got admitted as a full-time student.
“I am fond of law and philosophy,” Linh said.
“When I knew I got admitted to Dong Do International University, I was delighted to know that the dream of my life was then fulfilled.”
“I had to wait for my whole life to have this chance so I truly appreciate studying,” Linh said, overwhelmed with emotions.
Despite being in his mid-80s, he receives strong support from family and friends, even from his 88-year-old wife.
Studying with 19-year-olds
Every day the 84-year-old student cycles three kilometers to school to attend classes with his 19-year-old classmates.
Many would assume that the old man would have a hard time talking to his classmates, but Linh claims their youth “energizes” him.
“The young are very smart, but I am still healthy and sane so I do not have any difficulty catching up with them,” he said eagerly.
“Moreover, they are very funny so talking to them daily makes me feel younger.”
“However, I think nowadays the youth are using their phones too much. They should limit the time spent on screens and focus on their studies so as to develop themselves, the country, and integrate on an international scale,” Linh added.
In spite of his determination and positive attitude, the elderly student had to admit that age for him is an obstacle.
Linh is already 84 years old, but he still has another three years of college ahead of him as he is supposed to graduate in 2021.
Not only is the octogenarian passionate about studies, he also respects education.
As it is not really difficult to buy a fake degree in Vietnam, Linh said he could easily buy himself one, even the PhD.
“But that would have been such a shameful act for a decent person, so I still go to school,” he said.
“Going to school expands my knowledge. Every day I acquire new information, which makes me utterly happy.”
Not only is he a keen student, he is also the chair of a Chinese poem club in Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi.
So far he has written around 3,000 poems.
“Our family always supports my grandfather’s studies,” Cao Van Du, Linh’s grandson, said when asked about his grandfather.
“Attending school helps him be happier, healthier, saner, and turns him into a great example to others.”