Diem is a chemistry major with dreams of being a dentist. She has been awarded the Ezzard Scholarship.
Where are you from?
I’m from Danang, Vietnam.
What were you like before college?
I went to Danang University in Vietnam and got my first degree in Education before I came here. It totally changed me because after my internship in Vietnam I recognized that education is not for me. I wanted to be involved in healthcare, in science — which I never thought about in high school. When I came to Georgia State, I changed my major.
Why did you choose GSU?
It’s in downtown Atlanta, which appealed to me because it’s a big city. Georgia State is very diverse, and since I came from a different country it was easier to avoid culture shock. It is still totally different from what I was used to growing up.
How did you select your major?
When I was in college in Vietnam, my dad got cancer and he passed away. I recognized that working in healthcare, I can meet and help other people that have the same experience as me. When I first changed my major to chemistry, I wanted to be a pharmacist. Now my dream career is to be a dentist. In my work in the lab, I recognized that I want to be involved with patients. I don’t just want to create drugs. Being a pharmacist would be really great, but when I go to the dentist’s office I am more motivated. To work with the patients, to have each other, see them have a confident smile when they leave the office, it makes me feel great. My dentist changed my direction.
What do you do in your free time?
I don’t have much free time. I have a really busy schedule with school and work in the lab. I’m a Teacher’s Assistant. I sometimes work weekends too. I really like to take naps and watch TV. My favorite show is Glee.
What is your daily schedule like?
Right now in the summer, I have to work about 20 hours in the lab for my fellowship. The other days I have to study for the DAT, the dental admission test, in three weeks. I didn’t study much last semester when I was taking the classes, so that’s all I do now.
How did you find out about this scholarship?
I have struggled a lot because I wasn’t in high school here so I don’t know how the system works very well. I met an advisor who told me I should apply for scholarships because my GPA is good and I have financial need. He introduced me to the Scholarship Resource Center, where I received help with writing my essay, meeting requirements, and applying on time.
What was the application process like?
First of all, I came to the Scholarship Resource Center and looked through all the scholarships I was eligible to apply for. I looked on the website to see all the information and requirements of the scholarships, because some scholarships require more than one essay and you need time to prepare for those. After I wrote my essay I submitted it for revision to the SRC. It was really helpful because I had never applied for scholarships before so I didn’t know how good my essay was. I submitted my materials online and waited for the result.
How long did you spend writing your essay?
It took me a while. English is not my first language, so when I write it takes me longer than normal. It took me around two weeks to finish it.
What set you apart from other applicants?
My application is a little bit special because I already have a degree. It’s tough for me because my degree is not from the U.S. I’m not eligible for many other scholarships for this reason and I’m only eligible for one loan. My GPA was really important too because it showed how hard I work and how focused I am.
What have you done outside schoolwork in relation to your major?
I shadow a dentist and am involved in the pre-dental club. I volunteer to get experience for my career. I also do research. Research helps you recognize that you really belong where you are. I also work in the lab. In the lab, you work with teams and professors. I realized I wanted to work with patients.
What advice would you give to someone who is having trouble getting scholarships?
If people are eligible to get HOPE, they should make sure to keep their grades up. I wish I had the HOPE scholarship. Work hard to keep it if you have it, because you will recognize how hard it is if you lose it. The university-wide scholarships are also helpful. Even one small scholarship can solve problems with tuition and housing.
How do you study for exams?
I attend as many classes as I can. It is a good habit because you are part of the class and you understand materials better. I usually study in groups, which is really helpful because some people understand things better than others. When a test is coming, I usually write out my whole monthly schedule to know what to study and when. Don‘t wait until the test to study. Even a smart person cannot remember everything in a short time.
What's the hardest class you've taken at GSU?
Physical Chemistry I and II. It’s a really abstract, advanced topic. It’s the connection between physics, math, and chemistry. The three topics together are really confusing.
What do you find to be the most distracting from your studies?
My family and friends in Vietnam always want to talk on the internet and it’s really difficult to say no, that I have to study. They are so far away and I really enjoy talking to them.
How would you advise others who are in the same situation as you, with friends and family so far away?
I think the best thing to do is turn off Facebook. If you have a smart phone, just throw it somewhere so you don’t see it. Of course, if they have an emergency you should have a way that they can contact you. But sometimes when I don’t want to chat I just turn it all off.
What are your plans for the future?
After I graduate, I hope to get into dental school. I will spend four more years to become a general dentist and I want to have my own practice. I also want the ability to go back to my country. In some regions in my country, the living conditions are not good. In the future, I want to be able to return there so that my hard work in school can pay off in my country and hometown. I want to make it better there too.