Disney’s “The Lion King”. DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”. Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio”.
These are some of the most breathtaking films that have come out of a job in animation. Even for a casual viewer, animated films put a gleam of wonder in one’s eyes — transporting them to a world of adventure, beauty and passion for a few short hours.
That’s exactly what Vietnamese student Mai Tran felt growing up.
“Animated movies left a profound impact on my perspective and instilled in me a desire to live my life to the fullest,” she tells Study International.
“Becoming an animator is my dream, as it would allow me to create my own stories and inspire and influence others with my art.”
Life as a young artist
Tran’s dream started at a young age when she had the opportunity to visit an artist’s gallery in her neighbourhood.
“His work left a profound impression on me,” the Ho Chi Minh native recalls.
“I was amazed at how art could convey such extreme realism and needless to say, he inspired me to pick up my pencil and draw.”
As the years went by, creating art became second nature to Tran. She excelled in her art classes and was often recognised as one of the best students.
Tran’s classmates would even fight over the sketches she discarded — a moment where something clicked within her.
“It was then that I realised that pursuing art may be my calling,” she shares.
That lead her to where she is today: a scholarship holder of the BA (Hons) Animation programme at the Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI).
“It’s the perfect fit for me as it combines all of my passions: painting, filmmaking and storytelling,” she says.
Today, Tran is thriving at BSBI.
She’s chasing her dreams and building skills that will advance her journey in countless ways.
Last year, she won the third Portfolio Scholarship Competition for her work focusing on children’s book illustration.
We speak to the Vietnamese student about her journey, her experiences as an international student in Berlin and her dreams of landing a job in animation after graduation.
Chasing her dream job in animation: Mai Tran’s journey
Why did you choose Germany as the ideal country to pursue your dreams?
I have always been drawn to the aesthetics and colourful cultures of European countries, but Germany holds a special place in my heart.
Apart from being the birthplace of thousands of numerous world-famous artists throughout history, Germany also boosts breathtaking architectural and natural wonders that captured my attention.
Additionally, its strong economic background and booming game industry appeal to me as an animator and may provide valuable opportunities for my future career.
Were you faced with any challenges as a Vietnamese woman studying art in a European country?
I must admit that everything hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows, but I have trained myself to maintain a positive attitude and seek out the bright side when facing challenges.
The language barrier was a big one. Although I am currently studying the language, my German skills are not yet up to par. Fortunately, everyone I’ve encountered has been friendly and kind enough to get me through my everyday life, despite my limited ability to communicate in German.
Additionally, I’ve had to adapt to using public transportation regularly, having punctuality expectations, and navigating cultural differences. I am confident that with time, I will continue to adjust and everything will improve.
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Is the arts and animation industry in Germany a welcome space for Asian students?
The arts and animation industry in Germany is incredibly diverse. From museums and art exhibitions, it’s clear that art is highly valued no matter where it comes from.
In my personal experience, I have found that Asian students are treated equally to those from other countries.
However, finding a job in animation can be challenging if one does not speak German, which is understandable in a competitive job market. To stand out, I need to equip myself with a broad range of skills.
What is your favourite aspect of being an international student in animation?
Meeting classmates from all over the world — united by a common goal. I love hearing everyone’s stories about how they ended up at the same destination despite taking different paths. The most beautiful part of it all is that everyone is so willing to share their knowledge with each other, creating a heart-warming and encouraging environment.
I remember one time when we were all coming home late from school in freezing winds and the pitch darkness of winter. I asked my classmates why we chose to suffer this, and they simply said, “We are here to become great artists, silly!”
We all laughed, and though it was a small moment, it stayed with me.
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Tell us more about the projects you’re working on.
I have only been studying animation for five months, so most of my time is still dedicated to completing school assignments.
As I gain more experience and skills, I look forward to creating my own projects and sharing them on video platforms such as Vimeo or TikTok. I aim to receive sufficient support and exposure to establish my profile and pave the way for my future career.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I prefer not to share too many details as I do not want to jinx it, which is a personal belief of mine.
But of course, every animation student aspires to work for a prestigious studio like Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks. I have set my sights on getting a job in animation and am dedicating myself to working hard towards achieving it every day.
In the future, I am willing to embark on any journey that leads me towards my dream, whether in Germany or overseas. I believe every new place has its unique beauty, and it would be a missed opportunity to turn down a chance to explore.