Vietnamese Manicurist, 55, Returns to University to Fulfill Lifelong Dream: Lessons on Academic Success From an Inspiring Woman


The story of Anh Tuyet comes as an exceptional twist in a world where the pressures for survival compel the curving of dreams to bend a little further.

Thirty years ago as a university student in Vietnam, Tuyet was presented with a rather painful decision-dropping out of school to support her family. At 55, she's back in school to finally make her dream of a bachelor's degree come true. For this Vietnamese-born manicurist from California, going back to class is not only a personal achievement but an inspiring story of drive, determination, and unwavering efforts toward the goal.

Vietnamese Manicurist, 55, Returns to University to Fulfill Lifelong Dream

(Photo : PEXELS / Kelly)

A Dream Deferred, A Dream Reclaimed

Anh Tuyet is 55 years old. She goes out of here with this very special degree, a dream she has held ever since she left university studies 30 years ago to help her family. "I'm finally fulfilling my dream of earning a bachelor's degree before my 60th birthday," she says. For a manicurist in California, life for Tuyet is about being strong, hardworking, and holding a commitment to both her family and the pursuit of her dreams.

Born in Vietnam, the road to the United States and a pathway back to the halls of academia has not been without difficulties. At 20, she abandoned university in her native Ho Chi Minh City to work as a factory worker to help her parents and sisters and, after marriage, to support her new husband by running a small diner. The early years were tough; besides the financial setbacks, she also lost her husband but she never gave up and pursued her dream to pursue higher education.

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Breaking the Barriers: Language and Technology

Tuyet moved to the United States in 2010. It had been quite a new chapter, filled with both opportunities and challenges. In the end, she got a job in a Vietnamese nail shop while speaking English, effectively limiting her communication with native clients. Being an extroverted woman, Tuyet tried to make a personal effort to improve her English. She learned with cartoons to grasp basic speaking and listening skills. Later though, being short of time, she gained online language lessons.

Not until about five years ago, when her children were older and more independent, Tuyet rekindled her dream of going to college. Finally, encouraged by her youngest child, she managed to take a few English classes at Cosumnes River College to cover the prerequisites for a nutrition degree. It was not for free. Then, the onset of COVID-19 delayed her plans. In the autumn of 2022, she eventually started her English classes in English proficiency in earnest.

The road was tough. She was able to understand only half of the lectures. Thus, she spent her weekend working while she was working during the whole week to study not less than 12 hours a day to learn new vocabulary, listen to recorded lectures, and write. Since her computer skills were poor, she also had to study about it. There were so many moments in her life when, from tiredness, she fell asleep, but she continued forward, encouraged by her children.

Academic Success and Next Steps

The rise in Tuyet's grades leveled out with her rise in hard work. She transitioned from Cs, then to Bs, and finally to getting B+s, constantly working hard on her coursework. She stopped at nothing to ask for any clarifications required from lecturers and peers, fully preparing her for research in case a new lecture material arises. This enabled her to get a 90% grasp of lecture material and change from a shy student to an active one, taking part in classroom discussions and doing active presentations.

Now that she had developed good communication skills, she was beginning to feel a little more confident about speaking. In the classroom, she adhered to the three core speaking codes with confidence: plan as much as you can beforehand, use basic language, and be attuned to the pacing of speech. At the beginning of this year, 2024, Tuyet finally passed all her English exams, gaining her university entrance qualification in human nutrition. She wants to set up a company to offer counseling and care to the elderly and pursue her passion for nutritional science and helping.

Tuyet and her story show that there is no age limit to start chasing one's dreams. Her oldest son, Tran Xuan Thien Truc, is deeply inspired by her efforts. "My mom always instills in me the feeling that I should give it a try, my best shot, so I would not later regret not doing so," said Truc, a home designer and constructor from California. He recently shared his mother's experience on social media, captioning it, "Never too late to chase your dreams."

Responding to comments on her son's post, Tuyet says, "Once I have a dream, I am committed to achieving it. Others may underestimate you, but you must never belittle yourself. If there's something you truly desire, fight for it." Her story is not just one of getting back to school but, more generally, one of regaining a long-held dream and showing how determination can defeat anything.

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