After I graduated, from my Bachelor of English Language and Linguistics, I undertook different roles at various educational organisations. I was an intern at the Institute of International Education (iie.org). I joined Cambridge ESOL Vietnam (University of Cambridge) as an Education Support Officer. My career remained in the education and training area as I started working for RMIT University Vietnam as an Academic Administration Assistant and was promoted to Academic Administration and Advisement Support, where my passion for student counselling and advising started to grow. I have a passion for supporting students and coaching them so that they become more capable of dealing with their study issues and their life issues as well. The more I interacted with them, the more problems and issues I realised that I needed to have a deeper understanding of. I started my own research about these issues and problems; such as low learning motivation, depression, lack of internal control and career indecision. However, I wanted more than that. I wanted to be trained in a professional and systematic fashion. I wanted to receive a world-class education about counselling and advising in education. Therefore, I decided to pursue the Master of Education, Counselling in Education at the University of Bristol (UoB).
I chose to study at the UoB because of the unique programme the Graduate School of Education (GSoE) offers. As far as I am concerned, this Master’s programme is unique within the United Kingdom. Before deciding to choose to study at the University of Bristol, I looked at the rankings in Education and Counselling subjects in the UK and in Europe. The UoB is consistently in the top 10 for this programme. I also discovered that the programmed offered is intensively research based. Researching, practising, and teaching counselling is my future career goal. Hence, studying at UOB would enable me to enhance my research skills.
I also chose to attend Bristol because of the city itself. I was lucky to have a friend, who used to work and live in Bristol, who highly recommended the city to me. He was absolutely sure that I would have a great student experience - and he was right!Bristol is a vibrant city for students and the cost of living was relatively less expensive compared to other big cities in England.
The city has become my second home town, especially the Clifton area. I remember lying down on the grass in Brandon Hill enjoying the sunshine in summer, licking the cool ice cream cone and chatting with friends about how much we were worried about our dissertations and how we could finish it but going back to the library to work on them would be the last thing we would like to do! I remember: sitting across from the Suspension Bridge waiting for the balloons to cover up the sky in the Balloon Festival; my first birthday dinner without my family, instead I enjoyed it with my friends in Bristol; joining in the Olympic atmosphere in the Millennium Square; my journey to discover all of Banksy’s works around Bristol.
The educational memory that stands out for me is completing my dissertation; my own research project. It was an extremely interesting experience that created in me different feelings at different periods of the project. I felt uncertain about my research at the first stage. I kept asking myself questions: ‘Can I do this?’, ‘Will my project be completed on time?’, ’20,000 words? How can I write that much in English?’. While at the last stage, I felt so content when I finally completed it and handed it into the school. The experience was even more interesting when I conducted my project under narrative inquiry, which allowed me to discover the lives of different ‘narrators’ and use their life stories as research materials for my project.
My personal tutor, Mrs Helen Knowler, is the person that had most influence on me at Bristol since she guided me, not only in my study but in my career as well. She realised that I was really interested in the area of career counselling, she even recommended me to the Careers Centre so that I could shadow career counsellors. I still remember she emailed me a job vacancy for student counsellor from an international high school in Vietnam and encouraged me to apply for it. The way she lectures and presents is very inspiring. I believe that without her very constructive and useful comments on my assignments, they would hardly have been graded A. Although I have graduated from the GSoE we keep in touch and I still consult her about the next steps in my career.
Studying at Bristol provided me with a solid foundation about counselling in education. The programme widened my view about counselling and psychotherapy. It enhanced my critical thinking. It sharpened my research skills. Holding a Master’s of Education is a big advantage for my career development. Currently, I am a student advisor at RMIT University Vietnam. Thanks to the knowledge I gained from my study at Bristol I have a much better structured view concerning the advising model and integrating different models and approaches to meet different student’s and client’s needs. The program has helped me to accumulate more ideas and suggestions to implement in my professional practice.
In terms of tangible achievement, I am proud that I got all A’s for all assignments and my dissertation. As for intangible achievement, my experience of living in a foreign country, a different culture and studying in a totally different style is what I am most proud of. I am proud that I threw myself out of the ‘comfort zone’ to challenge myself and to experience things that I thought I would ever do.
As I mentioned earlier, researching, practising and teaching counselling is my future career goal. Therefore, achieving a PhD is my next step. To prepare for this challenging step I am putting into practise the knowledge and skills gained from my study at the UoB, accumulating more experience in student counselling and advising, reflecting on my professional work and conducting more research about student advising and counselling in Vietnam’s education system.
To international students choosing the same path as mine I would say: counselling is a very broad area. You may want to ask yourself which area you are really interested in. Then go for it. Also, one year passes very quickly. Enjoy every moment that you have in Bristol, it is there to be discovered, indulged in and to be missed.