GoAbroad Interview

Linh Pham - Marketing Manager & Co-Founder

Linh Pham - Marketing Manager & Co-Founder

Linh Pham is the co-founder and marketing manager of Student Exchange Vietnam, where she has been working to promote Vietnam as an affordable and promising destination for study abroad and internships for students of all different nationalities. Linh has also participated in various youth-related initiatives in Japan, Korea, Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria, the U.S., and Vietnam. She has developed herself to be an ambassador of diverse cultures, a storyteller of education, and an adventurer of arts.

What inspired you to create an organization like Student Exchange Vietnam?

When I was small, I used to be very shy, but always dreamed to go places to see the world around. I even wrote a fictional novel about a girl taking an adventure to the Atlantic Ocean. When I grew up, I met my very first foreign friends in Vietnam, and got the first opportunity to go abroad for some student exchange events. From such experiences, I learned to be more proactive, brave, and tolerant. I also learned that going places should not only be a dream, or a fiction, but must be a guided practice of learning and growing. Student Exchange Vietnam was established to promote and actualize such educational practice for more students with big dreams and imagination.

Student Exchange Vietnam participants and local students in Trang An, Vietnam
Exploring Trang An, UNESCO heritage, with international students and local buddies

Your education took you from Vietnam to Colorado to New York. How have your educational experiences abroad contributed to the development of Student Exchange Vietnam?

I studied in a program conducted by the Foreign Trade University in Vietnam in cooperation with Colorado State University in the U.S. Though the program was conducted in Vietnam, I had the chance to work with American professors, through which I realized that study was really a two-way process. The professors taught us great things, but were also very excited to learn various things from Vietnamese students, both academically and socially. The foreign professors could gain from that exchange process, so why not get more foreign students involved?

During my studies, I did also struggle with language, culture, and even lifestyle differences, but all were good problems to have. Later on, when promoting and managing exchange programs, I usually put myself in other students’ shoes and utilize my personal experience to provide them with better orientation and support. And for sure I am now still learning continuously in New York, the city with the most diversity in the world.

You believe your “career ingredients” are “education, branding, business, start-up, internationalization, culture exchange, and personal development.” How do you think Student Exchange Vietnam provides students with all these ingredients?

Great question! Let me put those ingredients into some groups:

1. Education & Personal Development - Does the IT student have the opportunity to work on a real mobile app development process? Does the intern learn how to manage the company and socialize even with the co-workers who do not communicate proficiently in English? Does the homestay student figure out how to overcome the differences and solve the conflict happening with the host family? Anytime we say yes to any questions like these, we see one more case of our students’ growth.

Student Exchange Vietnam Co-founder Linh Pham at the IIE Generation Study Abroad Conference in Washington D.C.
Participating in the IIE Generation Study Abroad Conference in Washington D.C.

2. Business/Startup Experience - How to get a business to thrive by taking advantage of the countries with golden population structure and strategic location? How to keep a traditional village alive with the social enterprise model? How to leverage businesses in the emerging Southeast Asian region? If students are interested in solving business quizzes like this, we are here to help.

3. Internationalization, Culture Exchange, & Branding Initiative - Our students will join and even lead various exchange events in their host organizations, host companies, or with SE Vietnam staff. We exchange food, music, games, jokes, and fun facts. We explore local street corners and make comparison with other countries. Naturally, the students become the branding ambassador of their own countries in Vietnam. And later when they come back home, we encourage them to become the branding ambassador for Vietnam, another homeland of growth.

What makes Student Exchange Vietnam different from other international exchange programs?

1. We are local. We focus on Vietnam. From the top management to the staff who work directly with students, we share the knowledge and passion for Vietnam-based projects so that we can provide personalized and reasonable consultancy to students. We also have a network of local companies, universities, homestay families, and enthusiastic buddies to support the students to fit in.

2. We focus on the professional development of the student. We always ask our applicant “What do you want to do in the future? What kinds of careers are you considering”? We want students to have great memory of travel, culture, friendship, and not less importantly, to take a further step on their career path.

3. We always position ourselves as the pioneers, which means we keep listening, being flexible, adapting, and taking quick actions. We want to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit within our team and also inspire the students who trust us to shape their journeys.

Student Exchange Vietnam programs provide locally authentic experience and career-oriented practice coordinated by young entrepreneurial pioneers.
Student Exchange Vietnam staff in a Global Village in New York
Promoting Vietnam in a Global Village, New York

How do you use your professional background to market Student Exchange Vietnam’s programs best?

My expertise in marketing helps me (with the team) to build and run promotional channels and materials for our programs, such as our website, social media, brochures, posters, etc., to make sure that our potential and current students are aware of necessary information to make good decisions. Besides, I used to work as an international student manager, so I understand what process should work the best for our students and what content is important to them. And most importantly, this is education, so we do not make a regular sale, instead, we make a promise of personal development based on understanding as well as on-going sharing and support, which is the key to any marketing messages that we deliver.

What makes Vietnam a great location for student exchange?

1. Vietnam has various stories for the youths to learn from. They can learn from the history, by seeing how people survived (and kept positive thinking) during the war. They can learn how people nowadays, especially the youth, are bringing their innovative ideas to life, in business, community projects, or social advocacy, or how the locals compare languages and cultures to be competitive in the global market. They can also learn how local people are trying to maintain the traditional, family values in a fast-moving lifestyle.

2. Vietnam has problems. Yes, we have various problems, from diminishing traditional villages to increasing environmental issues and low competitive advantages of some exporting products. Go there, see that, and take more action. There are a lot of opportunities for our young participants to join the local fellows and leave their footprints.

3. Vietnam is beautiful. It is only a general statement until you go there. Many students don’t know Vietnam has one of the new seven Natural Wonders of the World before they come. Many students are also very impressed by the beautiful smiles of hospitality in Vietnam. If they are open, students will feel at home.

Student Exchange Vietnam participants at the office
At the SE Vietnam office

What do you love most about your job?

SE Vietnam is the home where I learned to wake up on American time, play games in a French way, decorate with a Japanese taste, and welcome people with a Vietnamese smile (and the list keeps going on). Here, with the team, I enjoy helping and connecting people.

What is your best piece of advice for prospective participants?

Learn and keep an entrepreneurial mindset, listening, being flexible, exploring things, and taking action. You may not build a company, but you will build the greatest memory of your life, everywhere.