An 11th Grader and Her International Learning Journey

Human Interest Story
05/07/2021
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© UNICEF Viet Nam

Vo Van Nguyen, an 11th grade female student from Phan Chau Trinh High School in Da Nang City, recently took part in the World Cities Day Webinar with adolescents from five other countries around the world on Oct 31. The virtual event was hosted by Fondation Botnar – funder of the Healthy City for Adolescents initiative in multiple countries, including Da Nang – Vietnam.

“It was my first time presenting to an international audience in English” – Nguyen shared.
It was exciting for Nguyen to have the opportunity to discuss with other international friends on an original topic, as the adolescent representatives got to discuss, reflect and share about their cities, the challenges their cities are facing and solutions they would like to propose to the authorities. Nguyen was the first youth representative to deliver her representation, so she couldn’t help feeling nervous.

“I felt some pressure to do well because I was representing not only Da Nang but also Vietnam. But I just tried to keep calm, breathe and tell myself that I could do it.”

In her five-minute speech, Nguyen shared about how Da Nang has made great progress in becoming a vibrant industrial, commercial, financial, educational, technological and tourist hub and one of the most liveable cities in Vietnam. She talked about how COVID-19 has had impacts on her, her family and friends and the community at large. Nguyen raised issue about substance use as one of the growing concerns among youth and adolescents in Da Nang and proposed to the city officials to provide more meaningful and healthy avenues for participation for young people, such as in community volunteer work, city planning and decision-making and innovative solution brainstorming to prevent youth from turning to harmful habits.

The 16-year-old high school student shared with enthusiasm that the event was an engaging occasion for her to learn about COVID-19 control and prevention in other countries.

“For example, several countries like Colombia doesn’t have restrictions in place; students still go to school as normal, and people do not wear masks nor take high precautions as we do in Viet Nam. A number of countries in Africa are in serious shortage of medical supplies and many COVID-19 patients might not even be able to get treatment. In India, the upperclass gets to receive high quality treatment from higher-tier hospitals, while those living in slums have difficulties accessing medical assistance.”

The presentations from adolescents around the world have helped Nguyen gain perspectives on the COVID-19 situation in Vietnam in comparison to other nations.

“I feel grateful to be in Viet Nam right now. It’s safe here and I appreciate that our government takes good control and preventive measures to protect the people.”

Nguyen felt proud that she successfully delivered her presentation and received a lot of positive reactions and cheers from the audience. The event gave the high school student an opportunity to not only make new friends and but also learn enriching information from an international community. Nguyen shared that she was most impressed with the youth representative from India because of her confidence and eloquence despite her very young age. Thanks to the event, she has gained more skills in listening and presenting and would be more than eager to participate in similar forums in the future.

Prior to the World Cities Day webinar, Nguyen participated in a workshop with more than 50 adolescents at Da Nang Youth Union to brainstorm ideas about the impacts of COVID-19 and solutions to propose to city authorities, in preparation for the official consultation event with youth and adolescents about COVID-19 on Oct 27.

“The preparation workshop was so engaging and fun. Those who attended were very enthuasiatic, energetic and friendly. I never knew that 8th and 9th graders could have such an abundance of ideas. I also contributed my thoughts to help younger kids further consolidate their ideas.”

Nguyen was in the team that focused on the health impacts of COVID-19. She learned about the inspiring volunteer work of several young people in the group at field hospitals in Da Nang to support the COVID-19 control efforts.

Vo Van Nguyen (in yellow T-shirt) and her team at the pre-meeting workshop on 25 Oct. © UNICEF Viet Nam

“The preparation workshop was in interactive and informative space for me gather and represent perspectives from many of my peers at the World Cities Day webinar” .

Currently, Nguyen is working on a gene research project related to COVID-19. She is curious about whether there are gene differences that can explain why certain people do not contract COVID-19 while others do when being exposed to the same source of COVID-19 infection, with an application for a vaccine. After attending the World Cities Day webinar, Nguyen feels even more motivated to advance her
project.

The creative product that Nguyen and her team came up with at the pre-meeting workshop to shed light on challenges of COVID-19 on adolescent health and propose solutions to the city. © UNICEF Viet Nam

“Vietnam’s medical system is of good standing compared to other nations. I think we should continue to build and expand on that advantage. The biomedical research field in Vietnam has a lot of potentials that I feel excited to explore.”

In a couple of months, Nguyen will be pursuing her studies in the United States and she is excited to share her experience participating in the WCD webinar with her new friends and teachers.

“I have been following UNICEF Vietnam posts and watching celebrities getting involved with a lot of meaningful initiatives for children. I couldn’t believe it when I received the news that I had been chosen to represent Da Nang and Vietnam in the World Cities Day virtual event. This experience will leave a memorable mark in my high school years. My parents are proud of me and happy that I have this opportunity to participate in a meaningful forum, especially as I haven’t been able to engage in a lot of activities because of the recent COVID-19 waves.”

Tiếng Nói Thanh Thiếu Niên từ Đà Nẵng

Vo Van Nguyen reflected on her hopes to participate in making contributions to her city in the event of severe storms and COVID-19 waves. © UNICEF Viet Nam

In the future, Nguyen wants to become a successful businesswoman who could contribute to social causes and help those in need.

“The Healthy City for Adolescents initiative is a very great project. My generation is getting more and more savy about technology, and all developed countries in the world capitalize on technology to improve productivity and knowledge. So I am excited that Da Nang is implementing the initiative, especially with a focus on innotative digital technology. I look forward to seeing positive changes in my city for me and my peers in the near future.”

Pham Vu Hanh Dung

youthon team
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