An Ideal University Education


My friends at Barcode Vietnam asked me to describe an ideal university education for part of their latest issue. What they picked out to include in the issue was something like “You can strike a balance between your own interests and meeting your parents’ expectations” but that quite sanitised from what I intended to say (see below).

My photo appears just two pages after that of Tim Ferriss, so that’s pretty cool 🙂





I think my idea about the value of University must be very far from the idea of most Vietnamese.

For me the value was in living far away from my parents, and having the freedom to explore my own interests, learn how to do things like laundry and cooking, make new friends, do drugs with other intelligent kids, and of course take some interesting classes too. It was about striking a balance between meeting my parents’ expectations (graduating, not failing my classes) and having fun.

I attended a liberal arts school, which means you must take a wide variety of subjects. So even though my major was film, I took classes in classical Chinese poetry, anthropology, engineering, philosophy, performance art, and Japanese language too.

During the opening day orientation the department chair even said: “This is a list of your required classes, take two of these per semester — and two other classes that look interesting to you — and you’ll probably meet your graduation requirements.”

So university for me wasn’t about developing one particular technical skill that I could use to land my first job. It was more about self discovery and forging myself into an interesting person who is able to enjoy life. After graduation I discovered what I really wanted to do for a career. I then enrolled in a technical school to learn some specific skills that I needed to get my first job.

My advice:

  • Don’t pick a career to make your family happy, pick a career that you are actually interested in.
  • Don’t live with your family, you must become a mature adult and you can’t do that if mom or grandma keep over protecting you. You must be free to learn from your own mistakes.
  • Experiment: this is your time to discover what your interests are — try different classes, clubs, and social activities.
  • Surround yourself with people who are talented and passionate and use them to motivate you.
  • You get out of it what you put into it. Make efforts in whatever you do.
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