Mai Ngoc Phuong Nguyen from Vietnam: Studying for an Associate of Arts Degree in International Studies at Shoreline Community College

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

I reached the decision after attending a seminar about studying abroad. And five months later, I found myself in the U.S., ready to tackle this diverse world. Yet, more than two years living and studying here, there has not been a single time I ever felt regret about my hasty decision. The day I stepped out of my comfort zone to explore this new land all by myself is one of the most crucial life-changing moments in my life.

Why did you choose Shoreline Community College?

My parents and I did research on several community colleges in Washington State. By the way, I chose community college because I hadn’t yet graduated from high school. And, only Washington State offers the High School completion program along with the 2+2 program, so it was perfect for me. I could save time and money by finishing my high school diploma while taking academic college courses.

In Vietnam, I had the opportunity to meet with representatives of several schools. Yet, I was amazed by the hospitality and warmth of Mrs. Marci Franklin from Shoreline Community College.

I chose Shoreline because I found out that my school has one of the most beautiful campus and green environment in the state. Moreover, Shoreline has great reputation for high quality education. Shoreline offered a whole lot of programs that most of the universities in Vietnam do not.

What do you like best?

For me, pursuing International Studies major is one of the proudest things in my life. And this program at Shoreline provided me a better and broader view to accumulate more and deeper into my academic interest. There are many specific courses offered throughout the year. And the faculties at Shoreline are so knowledgeable, helpful, understanding, and beyond awesome. Shoreline has prepared me to be ready to achieve higher in the major of International Studies.

What do you miss most?

One thing about home that I can never stop dreaming about is my mom’s food.

What was your biggest surprise?

When I was first to the U.S., I was stunned by this diverse world. Everything was so new that I got lost in overwhelming feelings. However, Shoreline has helped me take to the U.S. life like a duck to water. From the first day until now, I have never felt lonely or left out as I am always surrounded with warm-hearted friends, staffs and faculties. If anyone ever asked me to use one word to describe SCC campus life, that would definitely be "awesome" because of the people here.

... your biggest disappointment?

What bothers me the most should be the pricing here. Compared to the living cost in Vietnam, things are double or even triple the price. Yet, it is reasonable since the minimum wage is much higher.

How have you handled:

... language differences?

I would say you have to step out of your comfort zone first. Putting yourself out there to tackle with the language barriers is not comfortable and it can embarrass you. Yet, it is the fastest as well as most effective way to just cope with it. If you are open to people, they will help you improve significantly.

For instance, I was too shy for the first quarter that I always went straight home after class. For one quarter, I realized that this was not the reason I was here at the U.S. I was here to improve myself, the only way to do that is to be social so that people can help correct me. I started joining club and participating in school events, where I could improve my listening as well as communication and social skills.

... finances?

I tried my best to look for a job on campus. Even though it was not easy at first, I still got it after several tries.

... adjusting to a different educational system?

Be open-minded and adopt new things. In Vietnam, we have our teachers as the center of school life, telling us what to do from the smallest details. However, in the U.S., the student is the center of a class and the professor is just guiding us to go on the right path.

What are your activities?

I was the President of two clubs: Vietnamese Students Association and Shoreline Ukulele Club. Not only have they entertained my life, they also improve my leadership. Also, I enjoy going to LA Fitness after every school day.

How easy or difficult was making friends?

It was super easy since all you need to do is to say “Hi.” Seattleites, as well as people at Shoreline, are beyond friendly that they can engage you in a long interesting conversation for the first time you meet. I made tons of friends in my class, in my clubs, during school activities, at the gym or even on the bus.

How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country? 

My career goal is to work for a government consulate, being an ambassador as such. I'm pursuing International Studies major as it offers me all the essential knowledge and analytical skills for my future career. In the U.S., I am provided with a broader and more objective view of world issues. I hope that in the future I can help my country Vietnam be recognized more by friends from all over the world.

What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?

Be your unique self in this diverse world. Be open minded to new things and be social to people. Know your priority. Have fun, but not too much!

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