When the news that Nhi came first in the entrance exam for the HCMC Banking University arrived at her home in a poor hamlet in Qui Nhon City (Binh Dinh Province), her grandmother had to ask, “You came first in the examination?” Indeed, Nhi achieved a total score of 96.7%, the highest score in this year’s Banking University examination. Three days later, her teacher came to her house with the good news that with her total score of 29.5/30, she was second in the rough entrance exam to the HCMC Medicine and Pharmacy University, one of the highest-ranked universities in medical sciences in Viet Nam. Dao Thi Kieu Nhi has been an excellent student for the past twelve years of grade school. To prepare her for high school graduation and the university entrance exams, her teacher gave her private lessons in chemistry while another coached her in mathematics, free of charge. This isn’t to say that Nhi has had an easy life. Seven years ago, her family was forced to sell their house to pay off business debts, leaving Nhi and her younger sister in the care of their 72-year-old grandmother. Nhi was in the sixth grade and her younger…
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