How I beat my troubled lungs
I am a professional swimmer; I have been in training 4 days a week for 7 years, which makes swimming an important part of my life. Maybe even more important than I could ever imagine.
Back when I was little, I had to take a lot of antibiotics because of my troubled lungs. I was really weak and always had difficulty breathing. My dad was the one who signed me up for a spot in the city-wide swimming team and made me train every day. I struggled a lot at first and couldn’t even remember how many times I got sunk or gulped water out of imbalance. It didn't help that I was self-conciously chubby too.
Slowly, I took my coach’s guidelines on swimming techniques and revised them carefully, and things started to get easier. My lungs got better; I could take deeper breath and dive longer, an ability I never knew I had. I was also very lucky to have met coach Lien – the most dedicated and loving teacher who taught me everything and went with me through thick and thin, telling me to always “swim forward”.
Intercity Swimming Championship, Hanoi '13
Ultimately all the hardworking and highly-demanding schedule paid off, I won 2 gold medals, 2 bronze medals and a silver medal in several competitions, especially the Intercity Swimming Championship. Of course winning many medals rocked. But seeing how swimming has become so natural and easy and no longer a struggle, was even more awesome.
THIS is for my 12-year old self: You will some day become a swimming champion, fit and happy. You still have trouble breathing, but your lungs are much happier and healthier now. Good job!
How my whole year with CNN English Club turned out to be
*Sidenote: CNN English Club, known as CEC in CNN High school, is an English speaking club founded in 2009, devoted to our high school students with the ultimate goal of creating an English speaking environment. Being a school specializing in languages, CNN unfortunately used to not offer many chances for students to practice English outside of the classroom. This club was orginally founded by students to change that.
In 2014, I became one member of the management board of CEC, holding the title of "Lead Event Organizer". Basically, I am the one who plans all the ideas for events and implements them, including debates, presentations, talk shows, out-door activities, contests, school prom, etc. My teammates usually refer to me as a "fun-maker", because not only do I create fun and exhilarating projects but I also bring that energetic and enthusiastic vibes to the club. You can call me a "cheerleader" if you want.
So how was my year with CEC like?
It cannot be denied that although CEC came down to success at the end of the year, my team went through ups and downs and had to deal with hardness along the way: from coming up with ideas for events to managing members of the club.
I remember the hardest time we've ever been through was right before the first meeting. Although we had prepared some, nothing went according to the plan. The backdrop disappeared, water was not enough for members, we could not hire the stadium where the meeting was about to be held. Everyone got stressed out, and the president even cried in hopelessness. This is the time I realized we needed to believe in ourselves and had the courage to face with difficulties. What did I do? I bought my friends ice-cream because I was confident that it would cheer them up, and it did. I encouraged them to re-build the plan. Within three days, we came up with new ideas, new games, new activities to fit in with the new location. I remember hardly seeing anyone sleep anymore during that period.
The meeting ... was beyond our expectation. Everything went back to where it was, members loved the meeting and they were all taken by surprise in the end. Why was that? Because we gave them a little treat called "Waterballon fight", a crazy idea that turned out to be the biggest blast!
Pusing ourselves through that last limit is important, I realize. I did take one page from my swimming training: the last push is always the most difficult but also the most important one.
"Colordust Festival", Bat Trang Fieldtrip, CEC '14
My whole year with CEC is wrapped in: creativity. CEC is famous for having the largest number of members and the most challenging activities in our school, and I am the one to execute them.
The best thing of being an E.O is that I don't have to "check my brain at the door". Even when I have the most crazy ideas, I get the chance to bring them to life and instantly see if people like them or not. People love unexpected and surprising treats - I learned. Like that one time, we told all members to wear protections and masks for a scavenger hunt, just so to blow their mind with our throwing of Diwali-like colordust!
"Best actor", CEC's OSCARS '14
"Don't you ever run out of things to do and get tired?" - my friends asked.
"No, I feel great!" - I replied.
Event Organizer has given me the absolute ecstasy and satisfaction when it comes to creating things :) The joy people feel was truly contagious, and it strengthens our team members' spirit, friendship and sense of community.
Organizers of prom "They Mayverie" Member Recruitment, CEC '15
and CNN Idol 2015
How I became an amateur actor, and got damn good at it
Vietnamese Literature classes could be boring, but when the chance came to bring a famous work from a page to real life, we jumped at it. I participated in the whole process with my team, from wrting scripts to making properties, from designing posters to filming, all within 2 months.
I was chosen to be the main actor of our play, (read: the success of the play depends on me). I was quite scared, but also excited.
It was a mesmerizing memory to me.
Since the play was based on a story in the 19th century, the accent and demeanors of the characters were very "ancient", far from today. I had to work really hard on my accent to most accurately imitate the character I play. I remember practicing again and again, recording my voice to send to the director, and then repeating the same till 4 in the morning to just master the accent. I also took a traditional dance class to perform a dance in the play. To be honest, it was two hellish weeks , I almost couldn't feel my legs, but I'm glad that I did a pretty good job dancing in that play.
Traditional dance rehearsal, "Stage Perfomance" '14
D-day came. Every one was nervous, hoping for a successful play which they have been working on for a months. And it was. The play bursted in continuous applause, it turned out to be the most succesful play among other ones; it was a combination of good expressions, good visual aids, good lighting effects and above all good acting skills. We've made it!
Click here to see us behind the scenes!
How I served 200 portions to poor patients
at Saint Paul Hospital
Being the Management Board of CNN ENGLISH CLUB, I tried my best to organize a successful annual voluntary project called “A meal a smile”, even if it meant staying up late until 3 in the morning for deadlines or giving away all of my time and energy. The project – which took place in Saint Paul’s Hospital - aimed to help the poor patients by providing them with free lunch meals each Saturday for a month (at the end of the month we accomplished a total number of 800 portions)
I myself, together with 3 other students, were leaders of 4 volunteer groups provided meals for 4 departments in the hospital: Burn Unit, Adolescence Care, M Department and Neurology Department. Every Saturday, we gathered in a restaurant to cook Vietnamese traditional meals, packed them into boxes and delivered them to the hospital where we brought food to the patients and stayed by their side to give them company. We asked about their health condtion, did massage for them, talked to them or just simply listened to their stories.
I was lucky to get the chance to talk to Mr. Nhien, a patient of room 302 in Burn Unit and heard everything around his story. He was married to a lovable woman and had two beautiful daughters, and one of them is probably my age. The family was not as rich, but happy; they lived in a small apartment in a lane on Kham Thien Street. On that day his wife and himself got into quite a big fight and eventually resulted in his leaving the house. It wasn’t for long, he was so regretful and apologetic that he decided to come back and make up with the family after 2 days leaving. But when he came back, the house was burning in flames. He ran to the house without hesitation to find his wife and children but it was too late and ended up getting full burned when the firemen dragged him out of the house. The death of the family was thought to be caused by gas leaks and no one survived. Mr. Nhien was both regretful and broken down at a time, he wished if he had come home earlier there wouldn’t have been such a big loss. He was soon moved to the hospital by the relatives and given full attendance during the treatment. His physical pain was getting better but nothing can heal that mental pain in the heart, which has been killing him day by day. I felt really empathic and touched listening to his story and there was nothing I could do but to cheer him up as a listener, because as they always say, only time can heal the pain of the soul.
The project was truly meaningful; it brought people closer together and helped me get to know more about living pieces on this planet. If I have more chances to work in projects like this, I wouldn’t miss them for the world.
How I was part of a project that turns the classroom upside down (not literally)
One of the most significant pages of my life has to be The Creative Kid Project (or CKP), a summer camp designed exclusively for secondary students to work on their imagination, creativity and social skills.
*Sidenote about CKP: CKP was founded by four students from the U.S. and Vietnam with a strong interest in education, child development, and unconventional thinking. It's been running for 4 years now and regarded as one of the most trusted summer camps for middle school students. Every year a group of 30-40 students got selected through a series of tests and interviews, so I was very lucky to be selected as one of the first 28 students in CKP 2012.
The best thing about the camp is that you can deliberately express your opinions,
your criticism over many issues and debate about them. This is very uncommon in
Vietnam, as students are not usually allowed to speak up in class.
There was no "teacher" in the classroom and we had to do a lot of self-learning
and group-based activities.
Anothing thing is that more than just a camp, it becomes a second-home for many
people, like myself, who would come back and contribute time and again after the
camp was over. More on that later.
Imagine, when a group of Vietnamese 8th-graders got together for the first time and got told: "here's a blank page of paper - please create something to improve your own school", it was tough. We never did any of that before, definitely not in school. People were shy, no one dared to give his/her opinion, and I turned out to be one of the more vocal ones in the group.
On day four, while other teams had already worked on planning the project, my team got nothing but a piece of blank draft. Fortunately, we got Cam Ly, one of the facilitators to guide us (remember there was no teacher!) She was extremely creative and artistic herself (my role model!), but most importantly she listened with patience. Unlike a standard teacher, she didn't tell us what to do, but let us make mistakes. I definitely think Cam Ly was one of the reasons I'm aspired to become a Junior Facilitator in the years after that.
We realized that although some were shy, we were blessed with a team full of artistic individuals and art-enthusiasts. One idea led to another, and finally we came up with a fun project to revitalize the classroom through drawings, paiting and redecorating. I remember spending hours on that plan, which even includes creating a bunjee jump stair in class!
It was crazy but also made me appreciate "having space to create", even in the classroom environment. In the end, we won the "most creative team" award. But more than that, I learned that it's okay to change the classroom and make it better.
The first year of CKP was so short, that most of us wanted to come back. A few were motivated enough to apply as a Junior Facilitator. Being a JF is definitely different from being a camper. I helped other people in the organizing team to build the camp, sometimes I even shared facilitators' responsibilities to take charge of guiding certain group projects. I enjoy being a JF, for one thing I got to know more about organizing skills, but I can aslo see myself in those kids and get the chance to relive moments with CKP. CKP has grown so much in the last 4 years. It started off just as a very small idea, but now it's become one of the most influential summer camps, the most unique play ground for secondary kids. I cannot feel more proud of CKP, and that's the reason why I always come back to this camp, to pass the fire to the next generation of campers and inspire them to follow suit.
"Designers" team, winner of "Most creative project"
The Creative Kid Project '12
How I worked at Everest Education as the youngest intern
In summer 2014, I got an internship at Everest Education, the company in which my sister was working. Having the chance to meet your dear sister after a whole year and work with professionals in a company in Ho Chi Minh City?
That's the dream.
I could not tell how delightful I was to be a part of the E2 team. I was assigned to work on the project AIS Summer Camp, and that was when great things happen. I got to meet Kristine, Auslyn, Quan and Huong who were really talented and were willing to help me a lot in the company. It was them to teach me how to behave with bosses, people of higher positions and to work on project the most effectively. It was them who taught me that consistency is the key to success. I could not thank them enough!
Working on the project, I held the position of executor who comes up with idea, prepares materials for DIY activities during the camp and works on presentations to demonstrate the activites. I had a lot of fun creating DIY items I never thought I would be able to make.
I mean, have ever thought of turning a paper dish and a bag of mashmallows into an ethnical jewelry or making skeletons out of a spray bottle and sticks? I bet you haven't.
I really appreciate the time being an intern of E2 since E2 has given me so much and turned me into more mature human being than I used to be. And heck, I learned that I'm super great with kids!
And the adventure continues...