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2020 Academic Excellence: Vocational Education Training Awards

From discovering a life’s passion, to returning to study in Adelaide 20 years after coming here as an exchange student, the winners in the vocational education and training (VET) category are making the most of the opportunities offered to them as they live and learn in Adelaide.

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Winner: Thi Minh Khue Nguyen from Vietnam

Studying: Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care at TAFE SA

After studying and working in business at home in Vietnam, Thi Minh Khue felt something was missing. A working holiday to Australia set her on a course that would change her career and her life. Returning to study in early childhood education, Thi Minh Khue says she’s found her passion for working in community service and hopes to build a career helping children reach their full potential.

What prompted you to switch career paths from business to early childhood education?

After studying and working in business, I didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to explore the world, so I came to Australia on a working holiday visa. I worked in Melbourne and then went to Shark Bay, a remote area of Western Australia. I was amazed at how the people of this small town welcomed me and shared their beautiful stories. After volunteering there, I knew I wanted to engage more in community service.

After six months in WA, I went to Sydney and found work in an early learning centre which gave me an inside view of working with children. It didn’t feel like work because the children give me so much positive energy. I knew then that I wanted to study early childhood education.

You’ve lived and travelled in many parts of Australia. What made you choose Adelaide for your studies?

In my travels, I enjoyed it the most in the smaller communities. Melbourne and Sydney are too busy for me and very expensive. I did my research and found that Adelaide has the education, but also the nature with the beach on one side and hills on the other. It’s much cheaper than Sydney, and one of the safest cities. There were a lot of reasons why I chose Adelaide.

How did you overcome the language barrier when you first began your studies in Adelaide?

I carefully prepared my English skills because I knew the language barrier would be one of my biggest study challenges. I would ask people for their newspapers and read them to understand English in different contexts. I would go to the student library and read as much as I could. When I read something that inspired me, I would practice my academic writing. My lecturers were supportive and would check in to make sure I wasn’t left behind. I would read in the school holidays to prepare for the next semester, and I surrounded myself in an environment where I could communicate entirely in English. I have housemate friends from all over the world, and we speak in English, so I’ve been exposed to the language in every possible way.

Tell us about the work placement you’ve been doing as part of your study.

I’ve been doing my placement at a children’s centre in North Adelaide. I’ve enjoyed my time there. I’ve been able to get experience and see how the educators work with the children. We get to do our practical work on Monday and Tuesday, then come together for our lessons on Wednesday and Thursday. We share our experiences and learn more knowledge to apply in practice the next week. I feel I’m so active in my learning, so it’s really good.

How has volunteering helped you develop your professional skills?

I volunteer at a Library helping with story time sessions. I set up the instruments, puppets and equipment and support the library staff by singing along and connecting with the families and making everyone feel welcome. Relationships are a big thing for children. They need to feel safe and secure to learn. I’ve learnt the children’s names and different languages like Auslan (Australian sign language).  Singing, having fun and reading books are what I love. It’s such a great combination for me. I really enjoy volunteering at the Library.

You’re due to graduate mid-2021. What’s next for you?

That’s a big question. I want to keep working with children, especially children with special needs if I get the opportunity. Maybe I’ll work with an international organisation to enrich children’s lives and help them reach their full potential. I’m a pretty positive person, and I dream a little bit big as well.


Highly Commended: Joana Azambuja from Brazil

Studying: Diploma of Marketing and Communication at TAFE SA

Joana first came to Adelaide more than 20 years ago as an exchange student at Mercedes College. She came back in 2020 to study and show her husband and daughter the South Australia she remembered so fondly. In the years between, Joanna has pursued her quest for learning with studies in graphic design, advertising, and many courses related to visual communication and creativity. After working as a designer for 18 years, Joanna decided to return to Adelaide to study marketing. Her lecturers at TAFE SA say her assessments are of the highest quality, and Joana says her studies in Adelaide will fill the gaps in her professional knowledge.

Joana remembers all the fantastic places she visited when she was last in South Australia like Victor Harbor, Goolwa and Kangaroo Island. She’s loved rediscovering Adelaide, especially the city surrounded by parks, playgrounds and bike tracks which make for a wonderful quality of life for Joana and her family. “We live in a wonderful place, safe, surrounded by good neighbours and parks in harmony with great cafes, restaurants and markets.”


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