Many students studying abroad often face a unique set of challenges and obstacles that they must overcome when compared to domestic students. This was certainly the case for Huy Minh Ly, a student at the University of Ottawa.
Ly began his studies in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He always had a passion for the science field and after five years of study, he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Ho Chi Minh City.
Despite being a member of the faculty of pharmacy, a previous passion for chemistry was reignited in Ly and propelled him forward into his future studies.
“In Vietnam, I studied pharmacy, but I was really interested in learning chemistry because I went to a high school for the gifted,” Ly said. “The advanced topic I learned in high school was chemistry… When I was studying pharmacy, I realized this is not the way I want to start a career.”
From there, he travelled to Canada to attend the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec. According to ApplyBoard, Vietnam sent the fourth-most students to institutions in Atlantic Canada among all source markets over the past five years.
This was not without its share of challenges, however. Ly says the language barrier was initially the most difficult complication of his move to a new country.
“The most challenging part at the beginning was studying English. English [was] not easy for me at that time,” Ly said, “I learned English at a very young age but just theoretically, not the practical way we use to speak every day.”
Additionally, the lack of connections between Vietnamese and Canadian universities posed a problem for Ly when deciding where to study in Canada.
“My professor encouraged me to go to Japan or Korea because we have many connections between those countries, but I chose Canada because I have family here,” Ly said.
Because of the minimal connections between his university and others, Ly was rejected by Canadian universities when he applied.
Even with the odds stacked against him, Ly obtained his master of science degree at the University of Sherbrooke. From there, he moved to Ottawa, where he is currently working towards his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa.
Ly is also a member of The Beauchemin Lab; an Ottawa-based research lab focused on studying synthetic organic chemistry. He says he is pleased to be a part of a great group of fellow students.
“I feel like I am a lucky guy who always chooses the right lab to work in… The people are very helpful. I love doing my Ph.D. in The Beauchemin Lab, [and] I feel like this is the right option,” Ly said.
Bhavana Uppalapati, a fellow Ph.D. candidate at the lab, says Ly is a shining example of a dedicated worker and a good friend.
“He’s the main guy to go to if you’re confused about something. He’s the oldest grad student that people look up to,” Uppalapati said. “He has a very gentle personality which I really appreciate.”
Ly also continues to tutor Vietnamese chemistry students virtually. What started as a part-time job has become a real passion and hobby.