Although Uyen went to Nong Lam University to study a food science, teaching English is the second most recommended job for her (The first was masseur, because she had soft, chubby hands and her personality was generally tolerable.) She enjoyed helping her peers with exams and tutoring English as a part-time job, but she never thought she would have the chance to actually lead a classroom, until Teach For Viet Nam. The empowering ways the disabled and disadvantaged were treated in Canada where Uyen had her Mitacs internship during senior year planted a seed of doubt in her mind about how to go about doing good things for people. She began to question the path drawn for her as a researcher: working at a university, asking for grant to fix a small technical problem, publishing the results in a professional journal for a small circle of experts to read. It was not the kind of impact she wanted, Uyen found. She became interested in human beings, their inner lives and how they are shaped by the outside world. It was after reading, watching and learning about social sciences that Uyen began to realize how complex and nuanced the situation of the world and the depth of poverty and injustice were. She wanted to do something, but did not know where to start. As an engineer doomed to work on ketchup and instant noodle, she had the “wrong” degree. That was when Uyen read about Teach For Viet Nam, and for once, she believed in fate. She thought about all the sweeter, nicer, more intelligent friends she knew as a pupil, those thrown under the bus because they did not fit into the system, and could not imagine being anywhere else. She was meant to be a masseur, not a teacher, but Uyen – like everyone else in this young organization – believes children are worth the efforts.

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