Social, cultural, and mobility capital

Students consistently suggested that the programs afforded them many opportunities to network with experts in the field. For instance, the institutional Advanced Aquaculture report showed that beside Vietnamese teachers, 26 international academics from eight countries had successively come to deliver different subjects since 2008. Students stated that foreign and local lecturers whom they had studied with could become reliable referees or notify them of employment or careeradvancement opportunities. Professionals where students undertook the fieldwork not only helped students understand the industry but also could become potential employers or contacts for future careers. Two students commented on this:

When we studied with foreign teachers, they introduced us many universities to us . . . and scholarships that these universities offer. They are also willing to help us obtain overseas education opportunities.

(Pl2 - Aquaculture, fourth year)

Many students were referred to job opportunities by their teachers when they graduated.

(P24 -Aquaculture, third year)

In addition, these programs offered students many chances to network with international students. For example, until 2015, the Advanced Aquaculture program attracted 11 international students coming to complete some credited courses and 82 international students coming for cultural exchange or attending workshops and seminars. The program also sent five students to foreign institutions for short studies and 101 students for fieldwork or internships in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Likewise, the Advanced Biotechnology program sent five students to Thailand and seven to Japan for cultural exchange and organized short-term studies for 17 students in the USA, Japan, and South Korea. Consistent with findings in Soria and Troisi (2014), students reported developing cultural understanding, forging more social relationships through their international mobility, or interacting with foreign students, which are all favored by employers (Jones, 2013; King et al., 2010; Waters, 2006).

I have expanded my network with many friends through participating in student-exchange programs abroad and international conferences. . . . That is when we can connect to people in the same field of study.

(P25 -Aquaculture, third year)

In short, advanced programs appeared to develop students’ social capital more remarkably compared to local programs. The international environment created by advanced programs promoted students to forge an extensive network with leading experts and professionals as well as friends in and out of their fields, both in Vietnam and overseas. As indicated by Clarke (2017) and Fugate et al. (2004), such extensive and strong social networks could connect them to occupational opportunities and strengthen their job applications. Likewise, through international mobility and cross-cultural interactions, students developed mobility and cultural capital (King et al., 2010; Tomlinson, 2017), being a premise for the development of inter-cultural competence that employers are seeking (Soria & Troisi, 2014).

Personal adaptability

The interviews showed that advanced programs helped students develop their resilience and adaptability to cope with challenging situations, which is important for employability (Fugate et al., 2004). For many students, pursuing a program delivered in English was an endeavor. Therefore, many resiliency fought against language barriers by attending extra English classes, studying in groups, and translating the lessons into Vietnamese to foster their understanding of lectures.

In our course, many teachers are from Thailand and Taiwan, so [in the future] if I live abroad, that will help me adapt to the new life more easily due to having many opportunities to use English in this program.

(P25 -Aquaculture, third year)

hi addition, the innovative pedagogical and assessment practices used by foreign teachers required students to be adaptable. In Vietnam, students often feel too intimidated to ask questions about what they do not understand in class due to their fear of losing face (for example, see Leung & Cohen, 2011). The Confucian educational culture excessively preserves teachers’ power in the classroom, so students do not dare to ask critical questions (Tran et al., 2014). However, some students admitted that within the programs, they were encouraged to express then ideas freely and engage with their learning for true knowledge instead of gaining scores or passing exams. Teachers were reported to raise the bar high to harness students’ hidden potential. Therefore, advanced-program students always strived to adapt to tire challenging academic environment, which may be translated when they transition to work:

When we studied with foreign teachers, they paid much attention to ensure that we understood the lessons and they assigned more assessment tasks throughout the course ..., so we had to spend a lot of time doing homework and studying in groups. Sometimes we had to stay up late until 3 or 4 a.m.for these activities.... We all were stretched and forced to make a great effort.

(P01 - Aquaculture, fourth year)

Thus, the challenging learning environment helped students become more autonomous in thefr learning, willingly welcoming and defeating challenges. Consequently, they became more adaptable, resilient, and self-sufficient, which are important elements of employability capital (Clarke, 2017; Fugate et al., 2004; Tomlinson, 2017).

 
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