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Hien Luu, a 20-year-old Viet Kieu volunteer from the University of Notre Dame, US, takes students at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City, through TOEFL tests as part of the "Study Abroad in America" program initiated by the New York-based Institute for Vietnamese Culture and Education. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Many overseas Vietnamese are spending their summer helping local students train for tests to win scholarships to the US, Tuoi Tre reported.

Many have come here via a program called "Study Abroad in America," which was founded in 2005 by the Institute for Vietnamese Culture and Education, an organization based in New York that gathers Vietnamese youths who wish to preserve and promote Vietnam's culture and language.

The program has been teaching TOEFL, SAT, GRE or GMAT in Nha Trang along the central coast, in Thai Nguyen Province in the north, and Can Tho in the Mekong Delta.

"Many Viet kieu [overseas Vietnamese] youths did not hesitate to carry their backpacks everywhere in Vietnam though they had to pay for their own air tickets and daily expenses," said Thang Tran, chairman of the organization.

"Some of them lost their motorbikes, some fell sick due to the weather, but most have been very enthusiastic."

Tran recalled an incident in which a teacher was so into the teaching that he forgot his Vietnamese visa had expired.

"Study Abroad" typically sends students here for eight weeks at a time.

Hien Luu, a 20-year-old volunteer from the University of Notre Dame, US, and Minh Minh, 21, from the University of California, Berkeley, are holding free classes at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sometimes they had to use their knowledge of the Vietnamese language to explain difficult points.

In June, 30 Vietnamese and American students from Houston University brought the Zero Interest Microfinance program, a vocational project that includes non-interest funding, to poor areas in Vietnam.

Many Viet kieu students from the US and Singapore coordinated with students from HCMC University of Economics to get permission from TEDx, a world's leading knowledge sharing event, to launch a TEDxMekong in Vietnam later this year.

"The Viet kieu students do not receive any support by joining TEDxMekong," said Truong Le Quynh Tuong, a student from the HCMC University of Economics and chief organizer of TEDxMekong 2012.

"They have to pay for everything and it costs them a lot of time. But they have given their best and never been bothered by heavy or difficult tasks."

The Viet kieu students said the time and money have given them a chance to better themselves in different ways.

"I grew up in the US, so I have big gaps with my family," Luu told Tuoi Tre.

"These visits to the homeland can make me understand Vietnamese culture and language better, so I can be closer to my parents," she said.

Minh, a Viet kieu student from the US, has "scars" from a teaching season in the delta.

"My family is overprotective. They would stop me from coming here if they know I would get scratches and mosquito bites or leech bites."

But he said the "challenges" have made him stronger and more responsible.

Sean Tran, a 15-year-old from Brisbane Grammar High School, Australia, said the trips had shown him the true value of life.

"I used to focus only on studies and usually did not help around our family. These trips made me realize the need to care more for my family and the community," Tran said.

Brisbane Grammar High School runs a teaching program for poor local children called Compassion Vietnam.

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