Wednesday, January 8, 2014

RMIT high school tour speech

The speech was to commence the RMIT high school tour for Tran Khai Nguyen, December 2013, and from then, has been revised multiple times for subsequent tours.

Hi guys,

My name is Khang, I am an RMIT alumnus and a software engineer. The slide behind me is showing all the major achievements I have acquired over the last 5 years. But I know that no one really cares about those, neither do I and that isn't the reason why I am here today. I was asked by the school to share about my studying and working experience. That is quite a challenge. I graduated from high school in 2008 and my memory about that period is vague. But I do remember the confusion I felt during those years, overwhelmed by all the options of life. So today I want to tell you three stories of my life, over a course of events that eventually define me as who I am.

The first story is about surviving high school.

High school was always a bit lonely to me. Don't get me wrong, I had friends in at school and I love them. We still hang out with each other very frequently. But there wasn't anyone who shared the same interests with me. My friends were at the age when girls knew about the names of Taiwanese F4 better than the names of boys in their class, and boys were all crazy about cool gadgets, mp3 and mobile phone. I don't know how much the situation has changed, perhaps it is about Kim Tan and iPhone now?
I was a little bit different. I spent most of my time with books, found the "boring" subjects like history and geography quite interesting and sometimes enjoyed talking with my teachers more than with my friends. So I was quite a misfit. But all of sudden, thing changed when I went to college. I started to meet other computer geeks and book lovers, and what I wanted to do in my life began to get in shape.
I think there have also been moments in your life when you feel left out and don't know where you are supposed to be. Don't worry, that is just the way high school is. There will be times when your life sucks, but one day you will be given the chance to determine how the story of your life would be written. Until there, be prepared.

My second story is about understanding what I want.

After high school, I got accepted to both HCM University of Technology and FTU (Bách Khoa and Ngoại Thương respectively), two of the most prestigious education institutes in south of Vietnam. Didn't really like FTU but my father did, so I tried anyway. And you know how the days at FTU felt like? Felt like high school. The young kids around me were all excited about being bankers, brokers or marketers and I was like "how is Windows Server different from the one I am having on my desktop?". And I was certain that I didn't want to experience being a misfit again. I dropped out after 3 days and went to HCM UT instead. And I thought I would be happy now, I was in an engineering school and supposed to eat, pray, love with computer science over the next 5 years. It turned to be, well, quite misleading. The staff were bureaucratic and unfriendly. And I couldn't understand how the courses would possibly make me a better engineer. I was learning the exact same stuff my father was, 30 years ago (given the speed of technology, 30 years is a very long time, it is pre-internet era).
I don't remember if I have ever been more scared and lost and confused in my life. I had two options, and both didn't work out. Fortunately, at that difficult time, I received a scholarship offer from RMIT, the school which I applied 2-3 months before. I was saved. I am not going to brag about RMIT from this point on, but as you proceed on the tour, I hope you will get the same excitement I got when I came to RMIT.
So I have learned that when life gives you the chance to write your story, make sure you follow no one else wish but the call of your heart. Or else you will suffer.

The last story is about connecting the dots.

As you can see on the list, acquiring an internship in Taipei, Taiwan is one of the most important milestone in my career which leads me to the position I am today. But the actual story began far before that. During my years at RMIT, I had done quite a few things. I founded the IT Club (which I am happy to announce that is still strong and operating till today). I engaged into multiple discussions with my professors (I am still the same kid who enjoys talking with older people). And I organized MultiUni and was a TA in the first iOS programming course ever in Vietnam. I had no hope for a practical application in my life from doing these things. I did them because they were fun. And I loved it, I was satisfied just by doing what I loved. But gradually, somehow the dots of my life connected together. One of my professors acknowledged my ability and arranged me an overseas internship. That was just amazing.
I have learned that we can't connect the dots looking forward, it only starts to make sense when we look at them backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future, You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, love, whatever. And life will put the rest into the right place.

If there is a common theme in my three stories, I believe it is figuring what you want to do in your life and work your way towards that. And for a high school student, I know it is easier said than done. But again don't worry, the fact that you are worried for your future is indeed a good sign. It shows that you are mature enough to be responsible for your life, and people with that attitude are destined to be successful. And whenever you feel lost, remember that you are not alone. You always have your family, school and friends by your side, supporting you on the rough journey ahead.

Now go exploring what RMIT has to offer.

Thank you very much.