From Vietnam to Victoria University

tien, doctor of philosophy graduate
VU provides much support for myself and other higher degree by research (HDR) students. First, I receive a lot of support from my supervisory team. They have offered valuable guidance and encouragement during my PhD journey.

Tien Bich Ma (Vietnam)
Doctor of Philosophy

Bich Tien pivoted from a career in tourism to a Doctor of Philosophy at Victoria University (VU) on cruise tourism in Ho Chi Minh City. Not only has her PhD given Bich a new way to explore her passion for tourism, but it has also provided her with an opportunity to develop the tourism industry in her home country through research.

Bich took the time to reflect on her studies, her experience at VU and her ambitions for the future.

Putting Vietnamese tourism under the microscope

Tourism plays a vital role in the Vietnamese economy, creating many jobs and business opportunities for local people, including for Bich herself. As a result, it only felt natural for her to put this sector - specifically, cruise tourism - at the centre of her PhD research at VU.

"My research area is marketing and tourism, and my topic is resident perceptions and behavioural support for cruise tourism – a case study of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)."

Bich adds that, while HCMC is at the forefront of Vietnamese tourism, cruise tourism in the region is still relatively novel.

"In 2019, [HCMC] contributed to 50% of the international tourists arriving in Vietnam. However, cruise tourism in HCMC is still in an early stage of development, and little tourism research has been conducted on it."

A home away from home

After living in Australia for more than three years, Bich shares that it has begun to feel like a second home.

"It’s a good country for studying and gaining life experience. Australia is multicultural, so it’s easy to find Vietnamese food and restaurants in Melbourne. That helps me to not be homesick so much."

She adds that pursuing a PhD at VU has afforded both Bich and her family with incredible travel and lifestyle opportunities. Without the support of her family and VU staff, Bich explains, these opportunities and her success wouldn’t have been possible.

I’ve received lots of support from VU teachers, supervisors and staff. They are so helpful and support international students so much

From Vietnam to Melbourne: Bich’s international study journey

Bich explains that choosing VU as her education provider for her PhD was an easy decision. Not only did she receive scholarship funding, but the university is closely tied to her professional background in Vietnam.

"I’m a lecturer at Van Lang University, which is a partner university of VU. I received a full scholarship for three years of study from Van Lang University. However, the structure of a PhD is four years. To help me complete my PhD journey, VU sponsored one year of tuition fees for my last year of my PhD program."

This contribution to her educational goals is something for which Bich is endlessly grateful: “I really appreciate VU and Van Lang University for supporting me to have this fantastic opportunity to study my PhD in Australia.”

Embracing support resources at VU

According to Bich, financial support is just the beginning of all the assistance she has received from VU.

"VU provides much support for myself and other higher degree by research (HDR) students. First, I receive a lot of support from my supervisory team. They [have offered] valuable guidance and encouragement during my PhD journey."

VU also offers a comprehensive researcher development program for VU researchers, Bich adds.

"This program provides support in many categories such as research fundamentals, career planning, ethics, research funding, research methodology and analysis. It’s a valuable resource for HDR students to learn and improve their research skills, and to expand their research network."

Valuable resources at VU also come in the form of on-campus facilities and research programs, shares Bich.

"The VU library is a helpful resource for students to conduct their research. It also offers workshops to help students learn about research software, such as Qualtrics, NVIVO and SPSS.

"The Research Ambassador Program is another valuable tool for HDR students. It provides peer-to-peer research support to study. I’ve had many opportunities to learn research experience and skills from other HDR students."

While she has faced many challenges during the pandemic, Bich concedes that the assistance she received from VU helped her persevere.

"Although I experienced many challenges and hurdles, especially in the time of COVID-19, I have received tremendous support and encouragement from VU staff and teachers. During the pandemic, I received support from VU, such as free meals on Tuesday of every week."

A bright future

With only a few months remaining in her PhD, Bich looks back fondly on her study experience, calling it a treasured period in her life.

I think my PhD course is a special stage in life that is helping me to explore and develop myself. Like other HDR students, I have experienced some challenges during my PhD. However, after these challenges, the lesson that I’ve learned is if I fall down seven times, I’ll get up eight

With over 10 years of experience in tourism and marketing, Bich says she is so excited to see where her PhD course will take her in her research career.