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Advice from alumni: Cong Nguyen

Cong Nguyen from Vietnam graduated from EF Academy Oxford in 2016. Today, he is studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol. Cong wanted to study mechanical engineering until an inspiring school trip to Birmingham University. Read on to learn about what changed his mind, and what he enjoys about his university:


Full name: Cong Nguyen

Age: 18

Home country: Vietnam

Languages: English and Vietnamese

EF Academy campus: Oxford

Program: A-Levels

Grad year: 2016

Favorite club: Football/Soccer

Favorite subject: Physics

University: Studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol


Why did you decide to attend EF Academy?

First, I decided to study abroad in the UK and my parents and I thought about what international school would be a good choice. My dad really liked Oxford because he had been there once; he told me he liked the academic environment there, and he did some research and found EF Academy. I also knew about EF because they came to my high school in Vietnam once.

What is your favorite EF Academy memory?

There was the time that we went to Birmingham University and it really inspired me. They don’t have an aerospace engineering program, but at that time I was thinking about studying mechanical engineering. We visited the department at the university and it didn’t fascinate me that much and I was concerned. But as we passed the engineering department, I saw a military aircraft and that was the first time that I got to see inside the head. I was really excited and so fascinated by it. After that, I looked at what I could study if I was interested in aircraft and that’s how I found out about aerospace engineering. I always tell people that story when they ask how I chose my program.

What A-Level classes did you take?

Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Physics. Physics was my favorite because of the textbook that the school chose, and I also liked learning about motors. Another reason is that we went really in-depth into the topic – for example, if we learned about space, we learned more than the basic ideas. A good thing is that it doesn’t require too much background understanding, which makes it easier for you to research if you want to understand more.

What enrichment opportunities did you take advantage of?

I went to one lecture at the University of Oxford; it was on physics and my teacher took us to a real lecture and that was the first time that I went to a university lecture. Sometimes, EF Academy Oxford invited some people who were working and studying at Oxford to talk to us about what they were doing.

Did you have any internships?

I did a two-week internship at WIPAC, a lighting company, which I got through an English teacher at EF Academy. I asked her if she could look at my CV and she said she knew an engineer who would love to have me as an intern. First, they gave me a tour around the company and then the let me read the data and record data, and they also let me do a simple design. I worked with another employee and he helped me out.

What advice do you have for current students?

> If your predicted grade isn’t what you want, don’t give up. Study like it’s the last chance you have! My predicted grade was low and it was a really big push for me. I felt down for a long time, but I told myself that I should try because it’s the last chance I have. I studied a lot to get the best grades I could.

> Focus on yourself – don’t lose your track because of other people. But at the same time, asking others – your friends or teachers – for help is a good way for you to understand things from a different point of view. Never hesitate to help others if they ask you, because I know even now that the best way to study and improve is to explain your understanding out loud. This connects your ideas together and makes your understanding more clear.

> Understand the base of the problem and use that to advance. Remembering without understanding won’t work in university.

What did you enjoy about learning and living with people from all around the world?

It’s very fascinating. I got the chance to meet a lot of other people and understand more about other cultures. I have a friend from Iran and he told me about his country and what it’s like to live there. He told me about the misunderstandings people have about Muslims – he told me that it’s not about the religion, it’s about the beliefs. It helped me open my mind more so I can see problems from different perspectives, and that’s something I have found valuable for university.

What do you enjoy most about the University of Bristol?

Thanks to EF Academy Oxford, I feel that the time in Bristol is so much more valuable and I love it so much. The hard time in Oxford helped me feel better about myself because when I go through a tough time I realize that I’ve been through something like this before. At Bristol, I met a lot of new friends. And the best thing is that I know what I’m doing and what I’m doing is what I really want.  

What are your plans for after university?  

If everything goes right after I finish university, I will go back to Vietnam and develop the aerospace industry. What I know is that in the aerospace industry in Vietnam – I read a lot of news about this – they really want to develop the field but they don’t have enough quality engineers. Most of them study and work in the UK, Germany or the U.S., so there are few that actually go back home. That’s why I want to go back to Vietnam. I’m not sure if I will go back immediately after I graduate, I’ll wait until I have enough skills and knowledge.

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