I grew up in the countryside, in Bac Lieu, where my parents are rice farmers. I moved to Can Tho, about 150 kilometres away, when I was 18 so that I could finish my studies. After high school, I participated in a 2-year professional college diploma programme in accounting and then waitressed for two years at a local restaurant. After that break, I enrolled in university for a 3-year programme in accounting. Luckily my parents covered my tuition expenses [about US$300 annually]. But those three years were still busy – I was a full time student and worked part time to support myself. I graduated when I was 26.
I chose accounting because I thought I could easily get a job when I finished my studies. But since graduation I have been working as a waitress, part-time from 5pm till 11pm. I make US$65 in base salary plus an average US$260 in tips each month, which is plenty. Each month, US$86 goes back home to my parents, US$30 goes to rent a room in a student boarding house and then US$108 goes towards food and personal expenses. I put the rest into savings.
Even though I’m not working in what I studied for, I earn a decent salary. My friends from university who work as accountants earn only $170 each month. The only bad part about waitressing is that I don't have a written contract and if I take off sick or personal days they are deducted from my salary.
I would love to have a job as an accountant one day but I am honestly not sure that I could do the job based on my studies. I did interview a few times but got turned down for lack of experience. And when I was offered a job, the salary was only US$130, so I turned it down. But I know I can’t waitress forever. I dream about a better life for myself in the future. I will try my very best to make it happen.
Learn more about the work of the Youth Inclusion Project in Viet Nam