I'm on the road now, hopping around Australia and New Zealand (with huge thanks to Jetstar for providing the flights - and a couple of very kind people for offering places to stay!)
Over the weekend I was in Auckland, where 3 Blue Dragon boys are studying at NTEC college. They arrived in September, and 2 are now preparing to head back to Vietnam, having completed their English studies and some hospitality courses. The oldest of the 3, Chinh, is staying on for at least 6 months more to complete a Business diploma... but he's doing so well that the college is now talking about offering a second year of study to provide him with an even better qualification.
These 3 guys - pictured below - are inspiring young people. Each has spent time working on the streets of Hanoi; one doing shoe shine, one selling newspapers, and one as a gang leader. Studying in New Zealand was beyond their imagination, and yet they have not only survived, they've thrived.
Their teachers are happy with them, and they now have friends from all around the world. Mastering the life of 'international student' and living in a hostel have been incredible learning experiences beyond what they've mastered in class. And on top of it all, they've earned a reputation for helping other newly arrived students to settle in and sort out their problems.
Of course, as an Australian, I'm a little concerned about their Kiwi pronunciation, and the way they call me 'bro' now. (Everyone knows the PROPER English term is 'mate.'). For anyone unfamiliar with the nuances of New Zealand English, check out the New Zealand government's official guide to the language here.
In a couple of weeks, two of the boys will return to Hanoi, and Chinh will continue his studies without them. For each of them, they must soon face the issue of what to do with their newly acquired skills and qualifications. I'm hoping that they'll find a way to help others in Vietnam; but I'll be just as happy if they continue their studies and keep on building up their own education.