Dr. Luong Ngan, a member of the Tay ethnic minority from Vietnam, was recently named one of the youngest course directors at the UK-based London South Bank University, where her distinguished academic record helped earn her a promotion to the head of the school’s post-graduate marketing management program.
Before joining London South Bank’s faculty, Ngan earned a degree from the Hanoi Foreign Trade University, one of Vietnam’s most prestigious academic institutions.
The 33-year-old scholar hails from the northern Vietnamese province of Cao Bang, a mountainous province known for its tranquil landscapes and rich history.
But despite Cao bang’s beauty, life in the rural province, particularly for someone with an ethnic minority background, isn’t easy.
The urge to rise
Ngan belongs to Vietnam’s Tay ethnic community, a minority group based around the treacherous mountain slopes in northern Vietnam. Like the vast majority of the country’s 54 ethnic minorities, the Tay people speak their own language and live in relatively homogeneous communities, two characteristics which have kept them somewhat isolated from the outside world.
Speaking a different language makes it particularly hard for ethnic students to engage in the national education system, where standard Vietnamese is the status quo.
Ngan’s own personal story is fraught with setbacks. As a child, her family chose to move away from their ethnic minority and start a business in a nearby city. Of course, the transition was not easy.
Ngan spent her first three years of school doing her best to catch up to her peers, but her poor understanding of the Vietnamese language left her with little more than low academic scores and tremendous stress.
Little by little, however, support from her community helped her to pick up the language and she began to turn things around in school. From then on, she made it a point to be the first to show up in class.
Several years later, when it came time to take the annual university entrance exam – a compulsory test for graduating high school seniors – she fell short of her goal. Way short. In fact, she failed the exam.
But Ngan refused to let the setback get in the way of her dreams. The following year she took the test again and earned a seat at Hanoi Foreign Trade University, an institution known for its high admission standards.
After graduating from university, Ngan found a stable, well-paid job but knew she wanted more. Her dream was travel outside of Vietnam and see what the world had to offer.
She applied and was accepted to a Master’s program at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland and then went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, in England.
Now, Ngan is course director of the post-graduate marketing management program at London South Bank University.
Despite a prerequisite of having at least three-year worth of experience in the trade in order to take on the position, Ngan was able to leverage her Ph.D. and intricate understanding of marketing theory in order to convince the University’s administrator’s that she was the right person for the job.
|Supplied photo of Dr. Luong Ngan|
Challenges and merits
Though Ngan has had her fair share of hardships in life, she still considers her first winter in the UK as one of her most difficult experiences.
Coming from a tropical climate, the stark contrast of the dark winter days sent her into a state of homesickness. An issue which was only exacerbated by the menial part-time jobs she was forced to work in order to make ends meet.
But now that her efforts have paid off, Ngan refuses to let go of her persevering spirit.
She manages to divide her time between her management, lecturing, and researching responsibilities, all while still squeezing enough time in on weekends to catch up with her own personal network of friends.
And even with her success, she still holds her homeland of Vietnam near and dear to her heart.
She does her best to make social contributions to causes which benefit Vietnam and often contributes to funds and international projects in her homeland.
Among her visions, is the well-drafted plan to bring Cao Bang, her hometown, to the forefront of the tourism scheme in Vietnam.
Ngan and her contacts are currently formulating a plan to build a geographic park in Cao Bang Province, named “UNESCO Terra Nova”, hoping that it will promote sustainable tourism and raise environmental awareness amongst locals.
Though she loves working in the UK, Ngan shared that Vietnam will always hold a special place in her heart.