From a young age, Tom Do developed a fascination with the seemingly-magical power of medicine...
“If I was unwell and my parents gave me paracetamol to help me feel better, I found it so interesting that these little pills could somehow have a positive effect on my body.”
As he grew older, Tom realised he would like to work in pharmaceutical drug development, and he and his family began to consider study options in New Zealand.
“The University of Otago feels like a family,” he says. “The lecturers encourage you to take the subjects you enjoy and are interested in – to follow your passion. It’s an awesome environment.”
“My parents suggested I try one year in high school in New Zealand to see if I liked it here – and if I did, I could stay,” he recalls.
After visiting a number of New Zealand cities, Tom – then aged 16 – chose Dunedin.
“The University of Otago in Dunedin was definitely the best choice for studying medicine and science,” he says. “Also, I loved the southern landscape. The mountains, the ocean, the scenery – spectacular!”
He was also excited to discover he would be able to work in New Zealand after completing his studies.
Tom enjoyed his Year 12 studies at King’s High School in Dunedin, where he lived in a homestay with one of the school’s Deans.
The following year, Tom started at the University of Otago, completing a Foundation Year in Health Sciences. He is now studying Biochemistry and Pharmacology as he works towards his Bachelor of Science degree.
During his Foundation Year, Tom lived in a residential college called Salmond College, which he describes as the greatest experience of his life.
“I recommend living in a residential college because it is the best way to make friends,” he says. “Friends provide fun and social support, but also study support and motivation, too. Friendships are essential for a balanced and happy student lifestyle.”
Now, he is flatting with four friends he met at Salmond College. They live about 10 minutes’ walk from the University campus.
When he isn’t studying, Tom enjoys socialising with friends and being active.
“I can experience so much here, even though Dunedin is a small city,” he says. “Where I lived in Vietnam there were no beaches. Here, I love swimming and surfing at St Clair Beach – mostly in summer, though, because the water is so cold!”
As well as hiking and sightseeing in the city’s beautiful surrounds, he regularly plays badminton and soccer.
“I’ve also been skiing for the first time in nearby Central Otago – we don’t get snow in Vietnam,” he says.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tom has only returned to Hanoi once in the past four years.
“Having friends who feel like family has made this easier, but it can still be hard at times,” he says. “Technology helps, though – I video call my parents for ten minutes every evening.”
Once Tom finishes his studies, he plans to spend some time working and travelling in New Zealand.
“I love it here – New Zealanders are so nice and friendly. Vietnam is very crowded and busy, and everyone is rushing. Here there is a slower pace of life.”