Once upon a dream

June 18, 2015


Her walk across the Convocation stage was nearly 20 years in the making—but that’s not the end of this story

Ngan Nguyen, or “Emy” as her classmates know her, is a bona fide dreamer in the best sense of the word. She has had the same dream for nearly half of her life and to make it come true, she decided to do something incredibly brave.

Brave because she walked away from a good job after scrimping and saving for years to set aside the money in the family budget for an education. Brave because she travelled halfway around the world from her home in Vietnam to get that education. And even braver because she had to leave her then two-year-old daughter to do it.

Since she was 18 years old, Emy never took her eyes off the prize—even when her father got sick and she became the sole provider for her family of two sisters, a brother, and mom and dad. She wanted to learn about early childhood development in a Western country and bring that education back home. She got that opportunity at 34 when she came to MacEwan University to study in the Early Learning and Child Care program.

“When I was young, I could see the differences between the children of Western countries and the children of my country,” she says. “I know those differences are because education is different and that’s why I wanted to be an early learning educator.”

Her education was everything she hoped for until she began comparing her current family situation to what she was learning in class.

“It was a hard time for me and I thought I would quit the program so I could support my daughter,” recalls Emy. “I was thinking how could I support another person’s child when I cannot support my own?”

When phone calls, Skype and emails home weren’t enough, Emy made extra trips back to Vietnam. But the frequent flights were eating up her carefully saved budget, so faculty members offered child care strategies that Emy could pass on to her husband—even before she moved back home, she was bringing Western child care lessons to Vietnam.

Eventually Emy and her husband decided that he and their daughter would move to Canada to join her, but it was another year and a half before the family was reunited in December 2014.

On June 18, Emy celebrates her accomplishments, trials and tribulations—and her birthday—as she crosses the stage at the Spring Convocation ceremony.

But don’t think this is the end of her story.

With her husband and daughter at her side, Emy is more determined than ever. Her dreams have turned into goals. She wants to continue her studies and get a degree in early learning. She wants to share her experience as an international student with others. She wants to join community groups that support children and families. And the dream she has had since the beginning: return to Vietnam with everything she’s learned and apply it to her own child care centre one day.

“Be passionate,” she says when asked what it takes to stare down adversity for the sake of education. “Be passionate about your own way and have support from your family back home. If I did not have support from my husband and my parents, both emotionally and financially, I could not have done this.”

MacEwan University is proud to celebrate the over 2,100 members of the Class of 2015. Congratulations to this year's graduates, medal recipients and distinguished award honourees.

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