Ngoc Hanh Nguyen Tran’s most important inspiration is a person she has never seen. She does not know their name, whether they’re young or old, male or female. She knows, however, that this person may one day need her help.
When the going gets tough and she needs inspiration to continue, Nguyen, now a second-year Bachelor of Medical Science student at UTS, thinks about her future patient.
"Whenever I want to give up – when I approach a difficult problem in my study – I think, if I try to read it one more time or spend another 10 minutes on the page, maybe it will be make a difference to someone when I apply this knowledge in the future,” she says.
"If I’m going to work in health science, I have responsibility for another person’s health. I don’t want them to miss out on a treatment because I didn’t have the right content in my mind."
Despite her strong work ethic and dedication, Nguyen was not always the confident young woman she is today. When she first left her home in Ho Chi Minh City to study in Australia, she remembers feeling that she would never be good enough.
With guidance from her education agent, she found her way to UTS Insearch, where Nguyen began UTS Foundation Studies, followed by a Diploma of Science. “The teachers helped me build a strong foundation in terms of knowledge, and laboratory techniques,” she says, “and through that diploma course I found the area of life science I’m most interested in. Now I’m majoring in cell pathology at UTS, and I feel like I’m in the perfect place to start a career in science."
Before moving to UTS, Nguyen topped the year in her Diploma of Science, winning the $5000 Outstanding Graduate prize, and creating what she calls the ‘perfect ending’ to her experience at UTS Insearch.
"I’m honestly so grateful for all the support,” she says, “I have such a strong foundation now, with more confidence in myself. UTS Insearch was the right choice for me, and it’s helped me to become who I am now."
She still loves the lab, even if the current need for online learning at UTS means she’s observing demonstrators, rather than doing the hands-on work herself. But she’s found a way to make the most of it.
"What I do might sound a bit strange, but it works for me. I watch the videos over and over, until I understand the procedure – to the point where I can predict what they’re doing next. It’s like I’ve built an imaginary link in my head. I can’t wait to get back in there for real though."
Nguyen has made online learning work for her. “Based on my experience, the main thing is to plan ahead,” she says. “Before you even start the course, go to the subject outline to orientate yourself. And note down the important dates. Then you can make a plan for every week. You need to keep yourself on track, because it’s not like when you’re on campus and you have all those people around you – your lecturers and your peers. When you’re at home it’s easy to procrastinate and fall behind. The other thing to remember is, if you’re struggling, ask for help. There’s a lot of help available. You just have to ask."
Like many students, Nguyen has nurtured a few ‘quarantine skills’ while the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us all at home.
"I have a lot of succulent plants, and during my busy life, I abandoned them. Now I’m enjoying bringing them back to life – especially the poor little plant in my bedroom. It was so unhealthy, but I think I’ve revived it now. I’m taking better care of myself too, cooking instead of making instant meals, so now I have a healthy diet. And I’ve taken up a new instrument – the ukulele! I’m learning to play ‘Lover’, by Taylor Swift. It may not sound the way it does on the piano, but I want to learn it on the uke because it’s my favourite song."
Nguyen talks just as passionately about her future. She says, “When I finish my degree I’m planning to move into diagnostic pathology. Working in science is a meaningful way to contribute to the community. It’s an industry that’s constantly renewing and adapting to challenges. For example, in microbiology at this time we need to find a faster way of diagnosing COVID-19. Being able to cope with those challenges demands innovation."
"Eventually, I’d like to move on to a Master’s degree in research. It’s been an amazing journey for me in Sydney. I’ve achieved things I never thought I would be able to do. It’s all been like a roller coaster, but to a place where I feel happy and proud."