At this time of year, many students have started a new life far from their families in a strange country, yet they are not alone and helpless.
Nantes in western France currently has over 100 Vietnamese studying in the city. Coming from different regions of Vietnam and majoring in different fields, they all found it difficult in the early days to settle down in a new environment.
Quang Hai, an architectural student at Nantes University, was well aware of the difficulties faced by overseas students. Upon arriving in France he became sick and, without Aunt Bay’s help, he would have dropped out of the university.
“Every morning Aunt Bay took me to hospital in her car for health tests. She also asked a doctor, a former student of hers, to help,” Hai says.
Quang Hai finally overcame all his difficulties with the help of Aunt Bay. He visits Aunt Bay whenever he can as he regards her as the closest person he’s got to family.
Few of the Vietnamese students in France know Aunt Bay’s real name, but they have great respect for this former Vice Professor at Nantes Medical University, who is now in her 70’s and is still ready to help them.
Aunt Bay’s Vietnamese-style house, complete with an ancestral alter, has long been a meeting place for Vietnamese students in Nantes, where they feel quite comfortable like at home.
Aunt Bay participates in most of Vietnamese students’ activities in Nantes, not just as a guest, but as a sponsor.
Nguyen Phuong Nga, a second-year linguistic research student at Nantes University, says, “Aunt Bay is our number-one guest whenever we have an important event to mark like International Women’s Day or the traditional Tet holiday.”
“Aunt Bay can’t remember all of the students here but we know her too well,” Nga adds.
When we ask her why she has devoted most of her time to Vietnamese students, Aunt Bay smiles and says, “I help them because I love them, because they face so many difficulties, and because we are all Vietnamese”.
She feels confident that every Vietnamese student in Nantes will be successful and will end up making a positive contribution to society.
Aunt Bay was awarded a certificate of merit by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 6 in recognition of her contribution to strengthening educational co-operation between Vietnam and France and her heartfelt assistance to Vietnamese students in Nantes.