Tác giả: Trương Phạm Hoài Chung
[TEDx Speech 2010]
I was born and raised in the suburb of Quy Nhon, a small city in the middle part of Vietnam. My parents were teachers, but our neighbors were mostly farmers. So as you can imagine, I grew up at the place where hard work and perseverance were the key elements to success. With a great deal of diligence and a bit of good luck, I was able to attend high school in Singapore and college in the US. Today, I would like to focus on my experience abroad, especially that in a liberal arts education, and how Vietnamese students can create a liberal arts environment for themselves.
Before 2005, I dreamt of entering big universities like Harvard. My dream crashed when Harvard rejected me. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was then accepted by Williams College, one of the best liberal arts colleges in the US.
What is “liberal arts”? Let me give you an informal explanation. It’s a kind of education that allows you to gain knowledge from as many disciplines as possible. Particularly, you don’t have to declare your major until the end of your second year. In the first two years, you are encouraged to take classes that interest you as a way to help you explore your own potential. In my first semester, I took a course in Chemistry, a course in Chinese language, a course in Linguistics, and a very unique course called “Interpreting human experience”, which combined various disciplines such as Psychology, Philosophy, Religion studies, Literature and so on. At the end of my second year, I decided to major in Economics and Chinese language, but while fulfilling those majors, I still had time to take courses in Music, Math, Computer Science and even, Cooking.
You may come to the conclusion that such an education will produce individuals who do not have specific skills to make financial calculations or build a nuclear engine.
True, a liberal arts college does not normally offer courses in Finance or Engineering. Nevertheless, this is exactly its philosophy: it gives you the power to design your own education, such that you are able to take full control of your life path. In other words, your desire to explore various disciplines gives you high adaptability to the rapidly changing living and working environment.
Let me illustrate this point from my own experience. After college, contrary to others’ expectation, I worked as a Chinese language teacher in a boarding school. Working with teenagers was not an easy task for a fresh graduate like myself. However, the knowledge I gained back when I took the abovementioned course, “Interpreting human experience” enabled me to practice differentiation so that I could teach each and every kid successfully. After teaching for a year, I decided to take a break to embark on a side career as an Independent singer-songwriter. The fact that I’m back to Ho Chi Minh City to work with composer Quoc Bao on my debut CD was shocking news to my parents, who thought it was a waste of my US education. However, none of my friends abroad have the same thinking.
This is because they understand that a liberal arts education brings the confidence to dream, to execute, and to be responsible for the outcome.
I’m not saying that liberal arts education is the best education. However, “liberal arts” thinking does exist in many successful entrepreneurs from the US. For sure, iPhone creators have excellent knowledge of human psychology.
For those of you who do not have a chance to study abroad, you can always design your own liberal arts education: Besides fulfilling courses for your degree, you should do research on other fields, attend talks like this and take courses outside your department or school, be it an English or a dancing class. Learn from different sources! Keep your desire to explore alive! Create your own opportunities! That’s “liberal arts”.
And now, I would like to sing for you a song I wrote about the spirit of living life to the fullest: “If you can do it, you’re a hero”.
If you can give everyone what you think that you have
It doesn’t matter how small; it just means a lot!
They will learn to accept ’cause it’s from your heart
Then you know that it’s worth your sacrifice
If you can transform their attitude, make them feel just exactly the same way too,
then you have changed the world into a better place, where people care for each other
IF YOU CAN DO IT, YOU’RE A HERO.