International Student of Month for January 2013, Phuong Nguyen
Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduce one international student by presenting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, ISS Graduate Assistant, Aftan Baldwin, interviewed Phuong Nguyen, a first year student from Vietnam. The following is the interview and pictures that Phuong shared with us.
Q: First Phuong, would you briefly introduction yourself? Tell me what you are studying at Lehigh and when you will graduate.
A: My name is Phuong Nguyen, an international student class of 2016 from Vietnam. I was born and raised in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Right now I’m undecided in the College of Business and Economics. I’m just going to take a lot of introduction classes to see which one I like the best because we don’t have to decide until sophomore year. But I will likely to double major in Finance and Accounting with a minor in Communication.
Q: What do you think about Lehigh, like campus, the dorm, and the courses. What are the most obvious differences between Lehigh and your home universities?
A:Since I applied to Lehigh University as early decision, Lehigh was my top choice after I’ve done a lot of research about colleges in the States. I love everything at Lehigh: the variety of more than 2000 courses allows me take everything I want: from all the required courses for Business to personal interest like a journalism course, a theater course in costume crew… I love dorm living life at Dravo because I get along so well with my roommate; I’m actually spending my first traditional Christmas with her family now. My group of close friends are the girls living and in my hall and the people living at Dravo. At the beginning of the semester, I participated in Camp Hawk, a retreat for freshmen at Camp Canadensis. At Camp Hawk, I had the best two days of the semester when I met a lot of wonderful friends and inspiring upperclassmen. After that memorable weekend at Camp Hawk, the people at Camp Hawk become my 2nd family at Lehigh. We have a lot of reunion dinners and gatherings; we are always enthusiastic every time we see each other everywhere on Campus. I would definitely recommend every freshman to go to Camp Hawk if they wanted to feel the Lehigh spirit, meet wonderful people and get out of their comfort zone since transition from high school to college is hard, especially for international student like me.
(Phuong and friends at Camp Hawk)
Everything here is totally different from Vietnam. I’ve spent my whole life in Hanoi, a busy and crowded city because it’s the capital city of Vietnam. Bethlehem is so much more quiet and peaceful compared to Hanoi. I have a lot of first time ever since I came here because every experience is different. During camp hawk, I had my first s’more and bonfire. I’m experiencing the first traditional xmas in the States with a typical American Family, my roommie’s family. One thing I like the most is all the open space we have here on campus or downtown. It’s always good to get away from the city living and spend 9 months per year in beautiful town like Bethlehem. And considered as the Christmas city, I love it so much when I go to South Side Bethlehem before I left for winter break. I spent time walking around the City Village, had dinner at small restaurant with my friends. I spotted the Star of Bethlehem from the bridge when we were walking back to Lehigh. Everything was so beautiful during this time of the year! Also, I just saw the first snow in my life at Lehigh! ( Tropical kids’ problems haha)
Q: Describe what daily life is like in your home country, Vietnam.
A: It depends during what time of the year :P.
During school year I had to wake up at 6 for school because school starts at 7:30AM and I had to walk to the bus stop which is 15 minutes away from home, then took the bus to school for almost half an hour. I usually had noodles for breakfast with my friends at the school cafeteria. School last from 7:30 to 12. In the afternoon I would help my mom with chores until dinner time. My family always gather together for more than 2 hours around dinner’s table because we would tell each other what we have been doing the whole day, just family time. Dinner with the whole family with home cooked meals by my mom is the number one thing I miss when I’m far away from home. Afterwards I would do the dishes, do my homework and listen to music, chillax for the rest of the night.
(Phuong and high school friends in traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai, a traditional clothes for women)
(Phuong and friend on a roadtrip to a village outside of Hanoi)
During the summer, I hang out with my friends a lot. We would go out for karaoke, Vietnamese street food, for a movie or simply just gather at someone’s house.
The last two months in Vietnam was really memorable. There were lots of farewells between me and my family and my friends. A lot of my friends are studying abroad too. Packing to go to college was not enjoyable at all because I have travel 2000 miles away for 9 months with a limited number of kilogram in my suitcase. It was hard saying goodbye to my family, but I was really excited to start college life at Lehigh as well.
Q: What do you miss about Vietnam?
A: I miss the people the most: my parents, my brother, my family and my friends. Some people miss the food; I do miss Vietnamese street food sometimes. But I’ve been to Philly, NYC and Boston had some Vietnamese food in China Town. My beloved people back home can’t be replaced so I think I miss them the most.
(Phuong and her family)
Q: If someone was going to visit your country, what would you tell them to do there?
A: I would take them to several special places of my hometown Hanoi:
- The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence Of Vietnam.
- Temple of Literature: the first national university of Vietnam
- The One Pillar Pagoda: a famous historic Buddhist temple
- Van Phuc silk village: The village has been much well known for its traditional sericulture, weaving, and silk products. What is special is that the silk is made by very simple looms, which is the genuinely traditional Vietnamese way of making silk. I actually bring a lot of silk products with me from Van Phuc village to give my friends and professors in the States.
Photo source: Wikipedia
I would also take them to eat some traditional food:
- Vietnamese Pho: http://placetoeat.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/pho-vietnam.jpg
- Banh cuon: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4013/4209845075_1ffa30a61e_o.jpg
- Cha Ca: http://www.vietnamonline.com/js/ckfinder/userfiles/images/Cha%20ca.jpg
- Vietnamese Bread: http://foodlab.tv/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/banh-mi.jpg
Q: What do you like about American culture?
A: Everyone is so friendly and open-minded. It’s always easy to make friends and people are always willing to help!
Q: Did you join any activities being held by ISS and what was your impression?
A:I took part in a lot of activities of ISS and I love all of them. The ISS is doing a great job in helping and connecting International students at Lehigh University. I actually work in Study Abroad Office so I have the chance to talk and meet with the staff a lot. Bonnie is always helpful and willing to help. Jeanne is always cheerful and smiley. Mr. Wang is really friendly and always says good morning whenever he walks pass by me. Starting this January I’m gonna be part of the International bazaar committee so I’m really excited.
(Phuong and Vietnamese students during Flag Parade)
Q: Is there anything else you would like everyone to know?
A: I believe that I will be able to contribute for Lehigh Community the best of my ability. Every time I have to introduce myself, I do not hesitate to proudly and loudly say: I’m Phuong, an international student from Hanoi, Vietnam. Everyone was surprised and asked me how long would it take to get here. 22 hours are long, but not as long and as winding as the path I had to take to apply to college in the States. I have never been out of Asian before; but I am really eager to improve myself day by day, to learn all the changes, the culture differences, and to meet lots of new friends. I want to make people go “wow”, but not because of the 8231-mile-trip I had taken, but for all the little stories about Vietnam. I would tell my American friends about all the beautiful places that they surely want to visit, about the street food of Vietnam during our picnic lunch, and how excited I am to be here at Lehigh after I’ve watched million of pictures and video about Lehigh on the Internet. Fitting in the new culture is important, but understanding it and sharing the differences are even more important.