Vietnam Time

5/15/2019 3:58:19 PM

Vietnamese doctor enters Miss World Australia

Dr Lily Vu has come a long way from arriving in Australia without her parents as a teenager. Now she’s taking to the catwalk to inspire other young migrant girls with her story.

Lily Vu lost her mother when she was 10 years old.

Five years later, she found herself in Melbourne with her brother, having left her father and her home behind in Vietnam.

“When I came, it was winter, so it was quite cold for me because I came from Saigon,” she says.

Lily and her mother pictured in Vietnam.

 “Although we had help from my aunt and uncle, we still struggled to grow up in a new country without our parents.”

Lily’s father stayed behind in Vietnam to work, supporting his children living in a foreign country.

She never found out exactly how her mother passed away.

“She was sick for around six months, and then my family tried to get her to Singapore for treatment … but she didn’t survive,” she says.

“That (has been) one of my motivations to become a doctor from a very young age. I really want to help other patients like my mum and spread awareness about preventative medicine.”

Her motivation carried her through school, university and a medical degree until she graduated from the University of Melbourne last December and became a doctor at the Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne’s east.

Now she’s preparing for her next challenge: competing in the Miss World Australia pageant.

“I’ve been practising my catwalk to make sure I look as elegant as I can because I don’t have the modelling background,” she says.

“Lots of people find (my story) inspiring and I really want more people to hear about it.”


Lily Vu at the Miss World Victorian preliminary finals in April

Lily passed the first rung of the international beauty pageant in Melbourne last Wednesday, and will be in the Victorian State Final in June.

If she passes the State Final, she'll compete for the national title at the 'Crowning Ceremony' at the Gold Coast on July 19.

The Miss World competition is one of the longest-running worldwide beauty pageants, alongside Miss Universe and Miss International, and has been running its Australian arm since 2002.

Participants hit the catwalk in evening wear and answer personality questions, sharing their story, ambitions and the choice of charity that they will fundraise for.

Lily has never entered the pageant before but decided to just "go for it" to send a message to other young migrant women.

“A lot of new migrants and international students in Australia are really struggling, and I hope that if I can do it they’ll feel more motivated to keep working hard and to follow their dreams,” she says.

When she was an international student herself, Lily faced huge fees of up to $300,000 to enroll in her dream course of medicine.

It was far too expensive for Lily and her father, who was supporting her and her brother financially from Vietnam.

But instead of giving up on medicine, she took a different path to make it more affordable.

“It’s a huge amount of money (for international students). My dad would no way be able to afford it, so I told myself: I have to get my permanent residency, so I can help my dad,” she says.

“I knew I would never do medicine if I was not a permanent resident.”

To become a local student, Lily had to enroll in a teaching diploma on top of a Bachelor’s degree in biomedicine, which she had completed as a prerequisite for her doctorate of medicine.

She was granted PR status in 2015, opening the path to affordable tuition fees.

She became an Australian citizen two years later, in the third year of her medical degree.

“I really felt so lucky and so proud to be an Australian,” she says.

“I felt really grateful for the many things Australia has given me, my friends, teachers, professors, mentors - they have given me so much.”

Since graduating late last year, she’s also taken to YouTube to share her passion for preventative health online.

Her YouTube channel is filled with videos (in both English and Vietnamese) outlining early warning signs for conditions such as depression, bowel cancer and stroke.

“I have a lot of good response from the Vietnamese community … if the more people know about the signs of depression or stroke, then the better,” she says.

On top of the pageant, YouTube channel and professional medical career, Lily is now working to reunite her family and bring her father to Australia on a family visa.

“My dad and my grandparents … they don’t really understand what I’m doing but they do their best to help,” she says.


Lily with her grandparents at her graduation.

 “The idea of me joining Miss World Australia is also quite a surprise to them, but they support me regardless as long as it brings me happiness.”


VNF  ( SBS )
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