Refugee’s daughter motivated to build Japanese language school in Vietnam
The child of a Vietnamese refugee strives to fulfill her dream of building a Japanese language school in the Southeast Asian country.
“My dream is to do something that would serve as a bridge between Japan and Vietnam,” said Doan Thy Trang, 27.
To achieve this goal, she founded a consulting firm in Akashi, a city in Hyogo Prefecture facing the Seto Inland Sea, in January 2015.
Trang explained that many Vietnam business interns she meets on the job have little difficulty communicating with Japanese in everyday conversations, but struggle with technical terms.
“Vietnamese need a school that teaches them the Japanese language used in the workplace,” she said.
Trang moved to Japan in 2005 with his mother and older sister to join their father, who had fled Vietnam some 15 years earlier and had been granted refugee status from the Japanese government. She made Akashi her new home after her father moved there.
She declined to speak in detail about her parents, both of whom were teachers in Vietnam, indicating that she feared their relatives would still face political persecution in their home countries.
Back home, Trang was always one of the brightest students in college and was particularly good at math and English.
But in Japan, she faced a language barrier. Before entering a local high school, she studied Japanese for six months at a facility set up in Tokyo’s Shinagawa district to help refugees. However, she was unable to answer questions during her first tests at school.
“I didn’t even understand what the questions meant,” Trang said.
Despite a multitude of challenges, including cultural differences and discrimination, Trang was determined to study hard and lay the foundation for a better livelihood.
Her efforts paid off as she passed an entrance exam to a prefectural high school in Hyogo.
After graduation, she applied for a scholarship program established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to support college education for refugees. But she failed an exam for the program.
After studying for a year, Trang passed the exam in 2011 and was allowed to enter the School of International Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University.
“This year has been the most difficult time for me,” said Trang. “I cried almost every day worrying about my future.”
But she also didn’t waste that time studying accounting and bookkeeping at a vocational school.
At Kwansei Gakuin, Trang studied accounting and business management.
Instead of looking for a job in a company, she developed an interest in running her own business, an idea she nurtured during her job search activities, including visiting consulting firms.
In January 2015, two months before graduation, Trang started a consulting company in Akashi with a capital of 100,000.
The services provided by his company are varied, ranging from Japanese-Vietnamese translation, importing Vietnamese food and products, to speaking at investment seminars for municipalities.
At the end of October, for example, she took an official from a Vietnamese construction company to a trade fair in Tokyo.
The two visited more than 200 booths set up in Tokyo Big Sight for the building materials fair and asked questions in Japanese on behalf of the Vietnamese official.
About a month later, Trang was in his hometown in Tra Vinh province, about a three-hour drive south of Ho Chi Minh City, looking for a site for his planned language school.
Despite the end of the rainy season, it rained almost every day as she scoured the city looking for a site.
While in Vietnam, Trang delivered cosmetic samples to Vietnamese women she met on behalf of a Japanese cosmetics maker, who she hopes will sponsor her language school project. .
“I have to get results to be able to convince potential sponsors,” she said.
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