Fulbrighter overcomes 1400km to embrace liberal art education and follow the dream of technology

Yen Nhi is a Class of 2026 student at Fulbright University Vietnam. With a dream of applying technology to support the society around her, Yen Nhi is majoring in Computer Science to continually enhance and develop her skills. Let’s listen to her reflections on the journey of pursuing her passion for technology, from Fulbright to SheCodes Hackathon and the Design Thinking Hackathon!

“Born and raised in an impoverish rural area in Central Vietnam, I have witnessed various challenges, from material scarcity to limited educational and developmental opportunities. Technology, with its power to connect and expand knowledge, can be the key to unlocking new doors. Life for people in my hometown can be improved not only in terms of livelihood but also by accessing new opportunities, from education to health and economic development.

Venturing over 1400 km away from my hometown, I was determined to bring this aspiration to Fulbright. Away from my family, I became the first in my family, in my high school, and in the village to pursue the liberal arts education in Vietnam. Coming to Fulbright was a step closer to my dream. At Fulbright, I received dedicated support and guidance to delve deeper into the field of technology from professors and friends through diverse and multidimensional courses.

Yen Nhi

Be Innovative and Diverse in the Ideation Process

One of the most memorable courses at Fulbright was the core course Design and Systems Thinking. In this class, I did not only learn about the process to create a product, but also get the hands-on experience in developing one with my classmates.

Reflecting from our own community, we noticed many people often forget to drink enough water every day. Seemingly a small issue, the lack of water leads to numerous health problems. Understanding the importance of water, our team developed the WATAR PRODUCT with the goal of helping people maintain their daily water intake habits. The product features reminders to drink water and tracks the amount of water consumed each day.

WATAR PRODUCT, a product that Yen Nhi and classmates made in Design & Systems Thinking class

Dr. Truong Trung Kien – my instructor always reminded his students: “In the ideation process, it’s not about finding the perfect idea from the beginning. The core is to encourage diversity in thinking because no idea is bad or unappreciated.” This advice became my motto in every project. I learned to listen and consider all opinions, thereby developing and refining ideas. The resulting products were not only innovative but also met the users’ needs.

Dr. Truong Trung Kien and students

SheCodes and the dream of using technology to solve social issues

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the SheCodes Hackathon. This competition exclusively for women in Vietnam aims to break gender barriers in the technology field. In 48 hours, teams unleash their creativity to build outstanding technological projects, providing optimal solutions to current social issues.

I was truly impressed by the stories of courageous women stepping out of their comfort zones in SheCodes. I realized that gender does not define who I am. Dare to challenge myself with things society deems “impossible.” Only then I can discover my potential and how I contribute to the society.

Accompanying me during the 48-hour hackathon were teammates from different universities. Even though it was our first time working together, we are well-coordinated when dividing tasks to suit each member’s strengths. There, I was the Product Designer. I have been passionate about drawing since childhood, so it is a chance for me to design user-friendly applications.

Our team conceived the idea of creating an app to assist doctors in helping autistic children integrate into society. “Autism” is not a disease but an inner world where these children live and perceive the world in their unique way.

Yen Nhi and her teammates won First Prize at SheCodes Hackathon

As a Product Designer, I pondered on creating an app that stimulates autistic children’s interest while remaining familiar to them. Recalling Mr. Kien’s words, I looked for ideas around my life. I noticed that cats are pets almost every family owns, regardless of their financial background. From their appearance to the cute sound they make, cats can soothe stress and fears. Therefore, I decided to draw a cat as the companion for autistic children on their journey to explore the world outside. Later, our team named this mascot “Meo Mi,” who would guide children through coloring exercises or provide instructions for challenges to help parents.

Learn to connect and expand the doors to the world

Not only living and learning in a diverse environment with students from all over Vietnam, I also had the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from Singaporean students in a Design Thinking Hackathon. This is a competition that organized by Fulbright’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) in collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Here, our team addressed the challenge of finding green and sustainable solutions for two socially impactful businesses in the Food & Beverage sector – One4One and Datfoods. These brands collaborated with farmers to increase livelihoods and provide environmentally friendly products such as coconut oil, essential oils, bio-friendly laundry detergent, or health care products.

For each problem posed, I not only learned to analyze from various perspectives but also experienced the process of creating innovative solutions, from initial ideas to developing finished products. Through every discussion, I realized that every individual, regardless of their nationality, carries deep values and insights that can be shared and learned from. Cultural differences are not barriers but bridges that help us broaden our vision and develop the necessary skills to become global citizens.

The courses at Fulbright, winning first place in the SheCodes Hackathon, or the experience in the Design Thinking Hackathon are significant milestones in my journey. They strengthen my confidence, passion, and enthusiasm for the path I have chosen.”

Yen Nhi and her teammates in Design Thinking Hackathon

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