‘Focus on what you love’, says Dean’s Merit prize-winner Jessie

‘Focus on what you love’, says Dean’s Merit prize-winner Jessie
Jessie Nguyen’s love of science began during her childhood in New Caledonia. “Since I was a kid,” she says, “I always loved science. I came to really love physics and maths the most, and that’s why I think being an engineer will be the perfect job for me. I love to innovate, to create things, to share my ideas.”
By the time Jessie was in her final year of high school, she had been to Australia many times and knew that was where she wanted to study. “I heard about UTS when I was in Year 12 in New Caledonia. After I did some research it looked like the best university for engineering in Australia, so I decided that’s where I wanted to go.”

She is now in her second semester of a Diploma of Engineering at UTS Insearch, and already enjoying success, having won a Dean’s Merit prize (a $5000 prize awarded to the student with the highest Grade-Point Average in the first semester of their diploma program) last semester. It was something she never expected.

Paying back her parents with good grades
“I was very shocked to hear I’d won a Dean’s Merit prize,” Jessie says. The news came as such a surprise, she didn’t quite believe it at first. As a precaution, she forwarded the email announcing her win to a French-speaking friend who works at UTS Insearch. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a scam or something.” Her friend was delighted to reassure her that it was genuine.
“I feel proud of myself. It feels good to know I’ve made my parents proud of me. They work hard to pay for my studies so I’m glad I can pay them back with good grades,” she says.

Adapting to a new way of learning
The prize was an uplifting way to end what had been a challenging few months. Jessie began her Diploma studies in March, and was only on campus for a week or so before COVID-19 changed everything. While still settling into a new country, she had to swiftly adapt to Remote Learning. She says what worried her most – even more than adapting to a new way of learning – was that she hadn’t had time to make friends in Australia. She says, “I never got to do many things on the UTS Insearch campus before it was locked down, but I soon found friends online. In some ways, it’s a bit harder than socialising face-to-face, but it was still fun. We were all in the same boat.”

Despite feeling quite homesick at the start of the lockdown, it didn’t take Jessie long to learn to navigate the changed social environment. Her philosophy is straightforward: “At a time like this, I think we need to wake up every day and remind ourselves that this situation is temporary. I try to do all the things I need to do and keep a smile on my face.” 
Cooking was another thing that helped her through that time. She says, "I never thought I was a great cook, but now I enjoy making a lot of international dishes. I did some Vietnamese cooking, some French cooking, some Thai cooking. My best dish was French – a pretty famous one – called boeuf bourguignon. I’m the only one who tasted it, but I think it was good.”

Jessie’s Remote Learning tips
Does she have any tips to help others make the most of Remote Learning? “First of all,” she says, “you should start by choosing something you really want to study. Your motivation comes from doing something you love. In Remote Learning, it’s important to stay motivated, so you really need to choose your diploma carefully. Your heart needs to be in it. I always wanted to do engineering, so I just love everything we do in it. That’s how I stay motivated – I love to learn new things so much that sometimes it feels more like a hobby. Even though I work hard for it when I get a good mark, it’s always a pleasure.”
Jessie is enthusiastic about the learning opportunities at UTS Insearch. She says, “I really enjoy the way everything we learn is very modern. Even when we’re practising the roots of physics or mathematics, we also learn new things that will help us in the future. We have a subject called Technical Communication, for example, where we learn about catastrophes that happened in the engineering field and how we can prevent them from happening again.”

Learning to be versatile
Of the many skills Jessie is developing as she completes her diploma, Jessie is most excited about her growing versatility. “In the Diploma of Engineering,” she says, “we do all kinds of engineering. I know when I go to UTS next year, I’ll need to choose a major and work on specific things. But this year I can do mechanical engineering one semester and the next semester I can do civil engineering. That’s learning to be versatile and love everything about engineering, and having skills that relate to everything. It will make me a better engineer.”