Anticipated Graduation: 2021
In Vietnam, my parents never had the opportunity to go school beyond third grade. However, they always believed that getting an education was the only way to escape poverty. So, in 2014, just after I finished my junior year in high school, my family and I immigrated to Portland, Oregon, United States. It was one of the most transformational moments of my life, but it was a difficult transition with many struggles.
As a child of immigrants, I had a lot of family responsibilities. My parents lack English proficiency skills, so it was on me, as the oldest child, to learn to open bank accounts, apply for food stamps and healthcare, translate bills, schedule doctor appointments, and act as a guardian for my two younger siblings. However, I managed to graduate on time and proudly became the first person in my family to earn a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree. I then continued my education by transferring to Drexel University in Fall 2018 as a Pre-Junior, majoring in Global Studies with a concentration on Global Justice and Human Rights.
As I was preparing for my big transition, I had many questions regarding my academic transcript, transfer credit evaluation, financial aid, vaccination, Drexel One account, Fall class schedule, potential study abroad opportunities, etc. My main resource during this time was my academic/transfer advisor. Whenever I could not find the answers from the school website, I emailed my advisor and she responded very quickly. When she did not have the answers, she directed me to the right places and followed up to make sure I got the help needed. I felt very encouraged to know that someone cared about me and worked passionately to ensure my smooth transition. Additionally, I found it helpful to do quick research to learn more about Drexel and its community prior moving. In my free time, I looked on DragonLinks to learn about different student clubs; checked the Welcome Week schedule and wrote down the events that I was interested; looked for festive and traditional activities happening in Philadelphia during the summer; and familiarized myself with the public transportation system.
I officially moved to Philadelphia in mid-September and my first activity was the Welcome Week – a week-long orientation for both first-year and transfer students. I was overwhelmingly exposed to many different celebratory and informative events that gave me the opportunity to meet other incoming students, as well as to learn about the ins and outs of Drexel and Philadelphia community. It was a long exhausting and fun week with a lot of information to take in and reflect. Therefore, I made sure to take note, stay hydrated and take a quick break whenever needed. My highlight was to participate the Involvement Fair, which was part of the Welcome Week, to check out the clubs that I was interested in and had already spent sometimes researching. One of them was the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). When I stopped by its table, I was welcomed with big smiles from three Executive Board members who were so excited, passionate, and prideful to share with me about VSA. Throughout the conversation, I learned that VSA was opening up a position for the Event Coordinator. Without any hesitation, I took the time to apply and was honorably selected. One year has passed and my experience with VSA could not have been any better. It has really taught me what VSA community is about.
VSA is a community that values the dignity and worth of each individual member. As a transfer and gay first-generation college student from a low-income family, despite all the preparation, my transition into college-life in the U.S. was tough. However, the friendship and guidance I have received because of VSA have made me feel very welcomed and supportive. Additionally, I VSA is a community that values educational and personal growth of each individual member. Despite being a cultural organization, professional development is definitely an important part of its mission. VSA has partnered with other student organizations and its alumni network to host Co-Op Stories, H-1B Workshop, and Resume Workshop events. Lastly, this is a community that values teamwork, expression of original ideas and creative solutions. The Lunar New Year and Annual Culture Show were great examples as these were when many members and alumni came together to put together the two biggest events of the year.
This upcoming year, I am incredibly honored to lead this amazing organization as president. I am excited to continue its legacy and mission of the VSA which is to provide those with a different background a better understanding of the Vietnamese culture through events that would promote beneficial outcome to the university and other members of the community. VSA has inspired, invested and lifted me up in many different ways and I am grateful to call it my home far away from home.
Anticipated Graduation: 2020
As a senior in High School, I applied to numerous colleges and one of these colleges was Drexel University because my older brother was raving about this school to my parents. On March 2015, I received an email from Drexel University’s Admission Office to check my portal for college decision. My heart was racing and pounding to an extent I could not breathe until I hit that log in button on Drexel Portal. A big congratulations appeared on my computer screen and the most common phrase of Drexel stroked me “Ambition can’t wait.” I had other school offers in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts area; however, I entrusted my future into Drexel University’s programs and guidance. Reflecting back, I have made a great decision, because that decision changed my life in many positive ways.
As a freshman, I came in as a shy and introverted girl. I have my older brother who was guiding me; however, I became too dependent on him that I did not build my own network and relationship. I was homesick and lonely because I was never good at speaking or communicating with people from diverse backgrounds. Since I studied in the same high school in Vietnam for 12 years straight, I was surrounded by similar people who became my best friends. I imagined that university life would be the same or somewhat similar to my high school’s lifestyle; yet, I was wrong. After months and months of loneliness and desperation, I realized I needed to change. My brother introduced me to some of his high school friends, who were also studying at Drexel University, and I was delighted to maintain the good relationships with these people. These people had invited me to Drexel Vietnamese Student Association’s (Drexel VSA) GBM, and from there onwards, I was in love with the organization and the people in it. I met many new and talented people, who are still my dear friends until today. Drexel VSA is not only my family but my heart and soul, because I am proud of my culture. I wanted to share my Vietnamese culture and experiences with Drexel’s student members, professors and faculties.
I did notice my lack of communication and leadership skills, so I pushed myself to join different student organizations that Drexel has offered. As Drexel University mentioned “Ambition can’t wait,” I am always striving for the best. I am grateful and delighted that I got selected as Director of External Relations for Drexel Ascend Business Chapter and Member of External Relations team for Drexel NAAAP (National Association of Asian American Professionals), because they are organizations which allowed me to immerse with like-minded individuals and built on my leadership skills. Aside from that, I was told by my advisor that “textbooks can only teach you certain knowledge to a certain extent; however, real life experience will give you valuable experiences and skills you need.” I was confused at that phrase until I had my first coop experience to validate the quote. Through the supportive guidance I received from my advisor, I was offer full time intern position at Estee Lauder Companies. It was a great valuable experience, because I developed my soft skills such as communication, leadership and time management immensely through this position. Moving to my second coop, I was seeking for international experience because I love to travel and explore the world. I was delighted, Drexel University offered international experiences. Therefore, I applied for Singapore Coop and Study Abroad program in Sydney through Drexel’s System and I was more than fortunate to receive offer at one of the top companies in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, as Mall Marketing Intern and studied abroad at the University of Sydney. Before my last coop, I found a new area of improvement I would like to focus, which was technical skills. I would love to learn new technological software and developed my Excel skills, so I applied to FMC Corporation.
With all the immense knowledge and experiences, I have gained through my internships and student organizations, I became confident and outspoken, so I ran for Vice President for Drexel VSA. Since Drexel VSA is one of the largest organizations at Drexel University, I wanted to have strong knowledge and skills (hard and soft skills) to help my Executive Board Members and VSA members to accomplish their goals. In conclusion, I am proud of who I am today, and I am grateful for the friends I have made at Drexel University. I would have not accomplished great milestones for my coop experiences without the support I received from my employers, professors and advisors. Drexel University gives me the most memorable experience, and I will treasure my last year as an Undergraduate student here.