Last week IAJN had the pleasure of meeting international alumna Sau Do for a chat about studying abroad and what is was like returning home to Vietnam.
Sau was born and raised in Vietnam. She left Vietnam to go to the US where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Business. Sau is currently working as a Business Development Manager at Tenzing Pacific. Tenzing Pacific Insurance Services is an agency that works with a variety of insurance providers to help clients choose the best provider based on their specific needs and financial capabilities.
We asked Sau a few questions about her time abroad and how she obtained a job when returning home to Vietnam.
Can you tell us about your time abroad?
It was a life-changing experience. Everything is like the opposite of Vietnam. People respected my privacy. They never asked me how much I make a month or my age. Going to school was also a different experience. We had all the freedom in this world to “argue” with professors and we didn’t have to stand up when talking, like we have to in Vietnam. To my surprise the professors were totally okay with it. This is a contrast of how I was brought up. We were never allowed to “ask” questions let alone to “argue” with professors/teachers.
With christmas coming up, what can you tell us about the holiday season in the US?
During my time abroad in the U.S, there were 2 major holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since Thanksgiving and Christmas are big holidays in America, I was off from school. During this time, I just gathered with my extended family to celebrate reunion and friendship. I still celebrate Thanksgiving since I moved back to Vietnam. I usually go to a hotel or a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, District 1 for traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey & sides.
How was it returning home to Vietnam after 10 years in America?
It was hard!
First, I left vietnam for many years. I have no past experience in working for a company in Vietnam. Also, I didn’t have any updates on market/customer trends, customer data or connections. It isn’t good, especially when I was looking for a job in the business sector. For example, I had applied for a sales position in a real estate company. They ask whether I have any customer data to start with. The answer they got was no
Secondly, most companies in Vietnam have a stereotype: returning international students have high expectation in salary and job position. A million questions will appear in the HR’s head: Will they stay with the company long? Can they get used to the Vietnamese working-environment? How much time do I need to take to train them?…Thus, they tend to be skeptical about hiring returning international students.
We are stuck in the middle: we are overqualified for a entry level jobs as we have good communication skills in English and we “studied overseas”. But we are underqualified for a high-position job as we don’t have the experience we need for these positions.
How did you get the job at Tenzing Pacific?
I saw Tenzing’s job post on IAJN’s website. It caught my attention that the manager didn’t ask for experience in sales or insurance. All he needed was motivation, work ethics, and a candidate that had been living overseas. To be honest, I haven’t seen a job post like that before. Most of places I saw or applied to always asked for experience either in the Vietnam market or in a certain field. I applied with a thought: “I can learn to be better”. And I did work hard to be where I am today.
What it is like working at Tenzing Pacific?
I Love it! It’s an open environment, in which everyone in the company is treated equally. I can propose any idea to my boss, who is willing to listen and also share his ideas. There are no barriers in the company. We are free to share thoughts and to contribute to the company’s growth.
Do you have any advice for returning international alumni?
Yes, I do.
Firstly, at the initial stage, returning students should map out their plan for the future: Do you want to come back to work in Vietnam or do you want to stay and live overseas? If you want to come back to Vietnam, choose your major wisely. Well, this sounds too practical, but choose a major which will help you to get a job in Vietnam, not the major you “like” when you are 18 years old. I met a couple, both returning international students, at a social event. They were complaining about how hard it was for them to find jobs in Vietnam, using their degrees. Well, guess what? Their majors were Anthropology and History.
Secondly, be patient. No one is going to offer you a high salary job with easy tasks without asking for experience. You have to EARN it, even if it means starting from an entry level and working your way up. Show the employer that you have the ability to move ahead in your career and that you can do a better job. So be patient and work harder to prove yourself. That day will come!
Thirdly, be modest. Don’t ever think you have “prestiges” or are “in a higher rank” compared to local students because you studied overseas. In fact, many of them may be more valuable to the employer than you are since they studied and have real working experience here. Learn from them to see how you can present yourself better.