Student nurtures Vietnamese community awareness in Japan

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When he first left Vietnam to study in Japan as a university student, Nguyen Binh Khiem was shocked by the differences between the two countries.

In particular, he noticed a distinct lack of anything close to Vietnamese culture.

“If you live in the US, you can find a Vietnamese restaurant easily, or even a ‘little Saigon’ area. But it’s [extremely] rare in Japan,” says Khiem, who has been living overseas for nearly a decade and is now a doctoral student at the University of Tokyo.

Nguyen Binh Khiem, who established VYSA in Japan in 2001, is also the president of the organization

“The number of Vietnamese people living in Japan is also lower than that in other countries [around 30,000 people, including around 3,000 students],” he adds.

Nostalgic for the familiarity of home, Khiem decided to start up a small group where Vietnamese could come together and share their overseas experiences. Together with some other exchange students, he began organizing social activities with the aim of raising community awareness among Vietnamese youth.

Recognized at his university for being a studious and exemplary student, Khiem says, “A person hardly makes success by himself. Many people must cooperate to help [another individual] gain success.

“The successful one then must move on to help others. Only in this way can we have Vietnamese people who are successful [on an international scale] like Indian and Chinese people.”

Despite the many challenges of running the group, the chemical-mechanics researcher continued pushing forward and new members kept joining.

Finally, in October, 2001, Khiem gained official recognition by the Vietnamese government for his group, called the Vietnamese Youths and Students Association (VYSA). The group now boasts more than 1,000 members under 12 divisions throughout Japan, including Hokkaido, Kyoto, and Osaka.

VYSA has also hosted a variety of activities related to culture and charity over the past eight years.

The Vietnamese and Japanese Students’ Scientific Exchange Meeting (VJSE), for example, was initiated in 2004 and is now held annually with the participation of hundreds of researchers and experts from the two countries.

Last year 28-year-old Khiem, who continues to serve as VYSA’s president, launched a website for the association at www.vysa.jp. The site lists updates about the organization’s activities and features a forum on various topics.

Source: Tien Phong

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