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Jenny Ly and Tiana Ly from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Subject coordinator at UTS Insearch / Finance & Project Officer at CSIRO

Volunteering is a good way to get to know the country, the culture, and the community. I know that employers value volunteer experience as much as your previous work experience

Sisters from Vietnam forge Australian careers in science

Sisters Tiana and Jenny Ly are pioneers in their family. They were the first of five children to leave Vietnam to come to Australia, overcoming significant challenges to complete their university studies and eventually work for leading institutions in Australia.

While Tiana chose commerce and works for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the scientific research organisation, Jenny studied science and teaches at UTS Insearch – where she started out as a student. She lectures in Diploma of science program, teaches digital literacy and academic skills in the UTS Foundation Studies, and also mentors students – all while completing a Master’s in medical science and biotechnology.

Jenny feels happy that her life has come full circle back to UTS.

“I'm very lucky, I’ve got a lot of good things from this country and the university, and now I am able to contribute, to give back.”

Most international students come with big aspirations, she says. “It’s good to have a dream and something to motivate you to work harder.” The sisters understand only too well the obstacles many students face and the challenges of living away from their home country and family.

UTS Insearch helped Tiana understand the Australian education system. “The system back home, in Vietnam, is really different; there the teacher talks and, the student listen,” she says.

“Here we contribute to make the lessons more interesting. We do research, we communicate, and we interact.” She now also applies these skills in the workplace.

Jenny followed her passion for science when she came to Australia 18 months after Tiana. She first completed a Diploma of Science at UTS Insearch and then a Bachelor of Science in Medical Science at UTS.

“It was a smooth transition,” Jenny says. “You don’t feel surprised when you move to university because you have been at UTS Insearch for one year and UTS is just across the road. We share the same facility for the lab and also library.”

After finishing her commerce degree, Tiana worked for a small chartered accountants firm as an assistant accountant and then with Diageo, the alcoholic beverage producer, for four years.

In 2013, she joined CSIRO as a Finance Officer. She was promoted over a four-year period and now works as finance and project officer in the food and agriculture unit.

Both Tiana and Jenny advise international students to voice their aspirations. “If you really want to do something you need to speak out and say what you want because usually, students tend to listen to their parents or friends,” says Tiana. “No one understands you more than yourself.”

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