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Meet the Vietnamese PhD student who set Thai record for memorization

Friday, June 05, 2015, 19:06 GMT+7

An overseas Vietnamese doctoral student, who set a record for his incredible memory in Thailand’s record book in March this year, shared how his singular ability has helped him in work and life.

Duong Anh Vu, 27, who is working on his doctoral degree at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, became the first foreigner to carve out his spot in the Thai Book of Records in late March at the university for astounding memorization feats.

He is also just the second foreigner whose awe-inspiring epics have made it into the Thai book.

Vu, who hails from the south-central province of Ninh Thuan, set the record for his extraordinary memorization in a two-hour challenge.

During the challenge, the young man managed to mentally retain 108 columns of data related to the economy, culture, politics and society of 206 countries and territories.

The challenge also incorporated the memorization of 22,248 items including details of the countries’ and territories’ areas, population, capitals, currencies, crude oil reserves, GDP, GDP per capita; as well as the pinpointing of around 2,500 locales on a world map.

Four officials from the Thai Book of Records organization, a professor from Chulalongkorn University and 28 students witnessed and authenticated Vu’s outstanding mental retention.

On the same day, Vu registered to set another record at another contest in September, in which he will attempt to memorize more than 1,000 works of world literature and remember and precisely locate 20,000 locales on the map.

During the upcoming challenge, Vu is supposed to answer all questions in English regarding 1,000 classic literature masterpieces including author biographies, protagonists and storylines.

He is also expected to provide the exact titles of the works from which excerpts, selected at random, are read out.     

Good memory hugely benefits

Vu told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that all the knowledge he had employed for the record setting was acquired from his studies as a geography major at a university in Ho Chi Minh City.

While applying for a scholarship for a doctorate, he learned of and took part in the Thai Book of Records’ memorization category.

“I’m still in good grasp of the knowledge and ready to smash other international memorization records, if any,” he added.

Vu divulged that his mental retention feats and record setting landed him four scholarships for his doctoral studies from four universities, including Cambridge University.

“Tanya Phonanan, the Thai Book of Records’ founder and editor, told me that my record acquisition may serve as a wake-up call for Thai youth to emulate peers from neighboring countries,” Vu noted.

“This made me look back and reshape my future road, and bolstered my resolve on doing something for my country,” the man revealed.

Right after his record obtainment, Vu received tempting partnership offers from several Vietnamese training programs.

“However, most of these programs are profit-oriented. I thus decided to return to Ninh Thuan Province, my hometown, resolved to help young Vietnamese people,” he explained.

Vu divulged he was inspired by his high school teachers’ dedication to help others later.

The teachers also helped him organize exchanges and performances on memorization for local students.

This summer he is poised to run classes on memorization approaches in his hometown, and join exchanges and performances of mental retention at several universities across the country.

Vu stressed that his foreign professors and those who get to know Vietnamese students all appreciate the students’ diligence.

However, a burdensome curriculum and extra classes may backfire and take their toll on the students’ health and school performance, he observed.

“I do not hesitate to let students at exchanges know that I did terribly in elementary and middle school to inspire them to accomplishments which are greater than mine.”    

“If they are armed with or work out their own effective memorization and learning methods, such tools will make a big difference,” Vu stressed.

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