Skilled migrant youth abandon dream career for life in Australia, but numbers are dropping

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Meeting world leaders, including Barrack Obama and Xi Jinping, was a regular experience in Vietnam for Uyen Vu, a former foreign press secretary for the Vietnamese government.

Ms. Vu has worked hard for years to buy a luxury apartment and open an English school in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. So why did she give up this comfortable life in exchange for the land below?

“My life was filled with joy but I knew I was capable of so much more, so I decided to challenge myself,” Ms. Vu said.

Ms Vu emigrated to Australia in 2017 to pursue an LLM at Macquarie University through a South East Asian Talent Scholarship.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry press secretary Uyen Vu has regularly met with international politicians at work in Vietnam.(Provided: Uyen Vu)

“[My family and colleagues] feared that I would not be able to survive and be successful in the new environment like I had in Vietnam, ”she said.

“I wanted to prove them wrong and their doubts became my motivation.

“Australian journalists in my field trips have always boasted that Australia is where everyone will be rewarded for their best effort, and I wanted a clean slate to gain new perspectives and renew myself.”

“A bridge between Australia and my homeland”

Upon arrival, the 29-year-old law student found plenty of business opportunities in Australia.

“Many Australian businesses mistakenly think that Vietnamese are poor and cannot afford high-end Australian products like Chinese consumers,” Ms. Vu said.

“As Vietnam has become a middle income country, there is a strong demand for high quality products and not enough Australian companies have taken advantage of it.”

As a result, Ms. Vu set up an export service to help Australian agricultural producers enter the Vietnamese wholesale market.

“Most Asian business relationships are relationship-based and I can use my connections with the best Vietnamese companies to help Australian producers gain their trust and bring some of the best Australian produce. [such as cherries and blueberries] to my people, ”she said.

On the left, a photo of a young woman in a white dress.  On the right, two women stand together in an office
Uyen Vu now operates a trade promotion service which helps Australian agricultural producers enter the Vietnamese market. Uyen Vu and Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie.(Provided: Uyen Vu)

Education is another Australian export for Ms. Vu to promote in Vietnam. She is now working on an EdTech [educational technology] platform to bring online learning from Australian universities to Vietnamese students.

Ms Vu, now an Australian citizen, said she felt a shock when she first came to Australia.

“It was a whole new world I had to learn to adapt to because no one knew me or cared who I was in Vietnam,” she said.

“You have to push yourself several times harder than the locals”

The start of life in Australia was also full of challenges for Duy Nong, Associate Professor at Griffith University, one of Australia’s top 5 early career researchers in 2020. The researcher moved to Australia in 2011 for his career. MA and PhD in Climate Change Economics. .

Two young people in front of Sydney Harbor Bridge
Duy Nong and his wife had to juggle three jobs for up to 14 hours a day to support their youth in Australia.(Provided: Duy Nong)

“I had to work over 14 hours a day starting at 5 am, juggling research, postings and hospitality to support our study here.

“There were times when I felt like breaking down, but I always remembered to never take the opportunity to live and study in Australia for granted.”

At the end of his doctorate, Dr Nong had to leave Australia in 2016 to find a job as a researcher at Colorado State University in the United States, then a lecturer at the University of Bonn in Germany.

Two people stand for a photo in front of a castle in Germany
Life in Germany was good, but Australia felt more at home for climate change economist Duy Nong.(Provided: Duy Nong)

“There were very few vacancies in my research area in Australia,” he said.

“I was heartbroken at the start and thought to myself that one day I would return to the Australian coast.

The latest statistics from the Foreign Ministry show a 38% drop in qualified visa approvals, from around 128,000 in 2016 to 79,620 in 2020.

Why Australia?

The opportunity arose for Dr Nong in 2020, when CSIRO was looking for a researcher to develop economic models to study food systems and climate change policies in Australia and abroad.

“Leaving Bonn was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life because my career was soaring, but Germany never really felt like home.”

Dr Nong said Australia’s geographic position attracts many researchers from Southeast Asia.

“Australia is close to Vietnam, our home country, so it’s easy for us to visit our parents, relatives and friends,” he said.

“Australia’s world-class and well-developed education, health, infrastructure and social systems are great assets.

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