A Vietnamese student pays it forward
  • | Tuoi tre | June 29, 2011 11:51 PM

Each year, as the national university entrance exams approach, a young man patiently sets about scouring the areas around universities and colleges, looking for places where exam-taking students from out of town can get free accommodation during their stay in the city.

Nguyen Xuan Tien works as a bricklayer assistant after his school time to have money for his expenses and to help other students
Photo: Tuoi Tre

He is Nguyen Xuan Tien, who has been a student in the Department of Literature of Danang University of Education for 3 years.

This year, he encourages his classmates to share their rooms with the students and also asks his friends to support them with pans, cookers, blankets, and electric fans so the high school graduates can have more time to focus on their study.

As the univeristy entrance exams are just around the corner, Tien’s small room on Nguyen Khuyen Street, Hoa Khanh Nam Ward, Lien Chieu Commune is filled with laughter these days. The out-of-town students discuss their lessons with each other while their parents make small talks and exchange confidences.

Nguyen Van Long and his son Nguyen Van Thanh from Thanh Hoa Province have arrived in Danang to take the entrance exams to the University of Education. Long said this was the second time he had taken his son to Danang and stayed at Tien’s room.

After getting a phone call from Tien, they packed up and went to the station, assured that he would be there for them.

Tien says because this is the third time he has done this voluntary work, he has some experience. This year, he is trying to find 150 places (70 for last year) that offer free lodgings to the students and their parents.

After school, he even rides his old bicyle to train stations and bus stations to pick up the students. Many times he has to wait until 2-3am for fear that they may get lost on their first trip to the city.

Not only does he provide the students with a place to stay, sometimes Tien even uses his own money to buy food and cook meals for them as well.

A bricklayer assistant in his spare time

No one knows Tien is the son of one of the poorest families in the commune. His father is an amateur painter. His mother suffers from heart disease and spends most of her time in the hospital. Many times Tien has to choose between continuing his study and going back home to take care of his mother.

With support from his family and friends, Tien persists in his study and tries to work his way through college.

To earn money to pay for his study and living expenses, Tien works as a bricklayer assistant at some construction sites. He also writes some news and collaborates with newspapers.

Despite being busy preparing for his own exams and picking up the students from the stations, Tien still finds time to work at the construction sites.

He wants to earn some more to pay for water, electricity bills and to rent some rooms for the students.

Tien helps other students prepare lessons before taking university entrance exams in his boarding room

Life is built on the bedrock of reciprocity

He finds the moral compass for his life and action from the following lines of To Huu’s poetry:

A bird gives to life its beautiful song

A tree gives to life its shade

Is it possible to always receive without giving back?

No, life is to give, to reciprocate, not to live only for oneself.

Three years ago, when Tien was preparing for the university entrance exams, his mother’s illness deteriorated and became critical. Tien was torn between giving up his study and returning home to look after his mother in her last days.

Fortunately, a kind-hearted person knew about his plight and offered to support his mother’s heart surgery. Thanks to the generosity of the Samaritan, Tien still has his mother by his side. Since then, he has always tried to offer similar acts of kindness to others around, as a way of keeping the spirit rolling forward.

Tien confides that he feels very happy helping these strange students with whom he has no previous connection. Nothing can compare with the joy he gets when the students phone to tell him they have passed the exams. Some of the students’ parents still keep in touch with him and often call to ask after him, which makes him really happy.

Le Thanh Huy, secretary of the Youth Union of Danang University of Education, said he appreciated and respected Tien for what he has been doing. Tien sets an exemplary standards for student voluntary campaigns at the university, he said.

Tien told us that he has about VND3 million (USD145) -- his salary for 30 days working on construction work. He will borrow some more from his friends to buy a VND4-5 million motorbike so he can take the students to their examnination sites. He said most of the students were very poor and it was only the right thing to do to try his best to help them.

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