Đồng Ngọc Hà,19, is the only Vietnamese student in the Top 50 Global Student Prize organized by the Varkey Foundation, a partner of UNESCO.
Hà used to be a physics student at the High School for the Gifted in Natural Sciences (Hà Nội National University), but competed in the International Biology Olympiad and won a silver medal in 2020. He has founded the non-profit project Biology For All Vietnam (for excellent students in biology across the country).
Bảo Ngọc talks to him about his new achievement
Inner Sanctum: Could you share a little bit about your journey at the Global Student Prize?
I found out about the Global Student Prize by accident. The application period took 2-3 months, but it was not until the last days that I learned about it through a friend. I found out that it was a prestigious award and participants have the opportunity to communicate with many excellent students in the world. I decided to apply.
In just 2-3 days before the deadline, I had to complete eight essays in English as required by the organizing committee. But I was not too pressured because everything I wrote came from my own experiences, from the Biology For All Vietnam project, the blog ” Một page Sinh linh tinh” (a biology page), managing some biology groups on Facebook and teaching.
About two months after submitting my application, I received an interview appointment from the organising committee.
Sona Patel, the prize manager, and I had a very long and open conversation. I convinced her with my ideals that there were no rules to what I did. But it all follows the common goal of leaving no one behind.
Maturity is not only learning more and going further but also looking around to know what the people around you need, to accompany them, not just moving forward and leaving everyone behind.
I think they sensed my thoughts.
Đồng Ngọc Hà is in the Top 50 of Global Student Prize. — Photo courtesy of Đồng Ngọc Hà
Inner Sanctum: Could you share more about your projects and the reason you decided to organize them?
Currently, my colleagues and I are continuing the Biology For All Vietnam (BFAVN) project, a non-profit project that is committed to providing quality learning opportunities for excellent students.
This project comes from my story as well as the people around me. I am a physics student but decided to participate in the excellent student contest in biology. In the first few days, I was very confused when I had to learn all the knowledge myself without knowing where to start.
Currently, the BFAVN has co-operated with more than 10 provinces and cities across the country.
The other members of the project and I have achieved many achievements in the national and international Biology Olympiads, so we have a lot of experience in the field.
Besides organising teaching sessions, we also organise a series of talk shows connecting excellent students and teachers in studying, teaching and researching biology.
Especially during the epidemic, the project can support students to gain solid knowledge and the spirit for upcoming competitions.
Moreover, the project involved students from many different provinces. They have little opportunity to access quality study materials in their subjects. That means, they have less chance to prove themselves.
As a person who received a lot of help from teachers and friends during the process of participating in the student contest, I really want to do something for the community and spread knowledge for those who need it.
Hà teaches in the Biology For All Vietnam project. — Photo courtesy of Đồng Ngọc Hà
Inner Sanctum: You are very interested in the field of education. What do you think in Việt Nam’s education needs to be changed?
In the process of accessing education, I realise that we are investing a lot in young people, but we should not neglect a huge part of society – that is, the elderly from previous generations.
Due to reasons such as war and family conditions, many didn’t have opportunities to go to school.
My mother is a role model and an inspiration to me. Coming from a poor rural area in Nam Định Province, she had to drop out of school from a very young age because her family could not afford it. However, to this day, she still longs to go to school and I have become her teacher.
When it comes to learning, people often think of two goals. One is learning for a specific purpose in their lives. The second is because they love knowledge and learning.
In class with my mother, I feel the connection between two knowledge lovers. I can tell my mother stories about the history of writers, foreign languages and great men in the world.
So I think everyone should study for the beauty of knowledge, for the sake of improving yourself and increasing your knowledge.
Also, I think everyone should have the opportunity to go to school because education opens the door to a lot of new things that can change people’s lives no matter how old they are.
That’s the problem that I see and really want to change.
Inner Sanctum: As someone who is always busy, how do you entertain yourself?
Every day, I set aside time to de-stress.
It could be drawing, listening to music, or going for a walk. There was a time when I was only 47kg, this has greatly affected my study and daily life. I had to change my eating, resting and exercising habits to improve my health.
Maintaining a good body and positive spirit is an important factor to working effectively.
Inner Sanctum: What are your plans for the future?
I didn’t expect to be the winner of the US$100,000 Global Student Prize, but I’m still happy to have surpassed 3,500 applicants from 94 countries to enter the top 50 and become a member of the Chegg Changemaker global student community.
In the near future, I will have the opportunity to discuss with students around the world, policies and campaigns related to students and education.
At the same time, I will continue my biomedical research and work on community projects.
Being born in a family with poor economic conditions, and often having to go to hospital for treatment made me want to pursue medicine.
The desire to deepen my understanding in the biomedical field so that I can improve the cost and quality of treatment was probably one of the biggest motivations for me to choose to pursue biology while I was still in school.
Also, I will continue to share what I have learned with everyone as I have always done. VNS