WT’s Trang Nguyen recipient of prestigious Gilman Scholarship

Callie Shipley, Reporter

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The challenges of a foreign culture and travel across an ocean fade away in the face of a woman driven by her passion.

Junior International Business major Trang Nguyen will fulfill her dream to travel to Japan as the recipient of the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Nguyen will study abroad at Nagasaki Foreign Language University in Nagasaki, Japan, for the semester beginning March 31 and ending Aug. 6.

“I think the chance to go to Japan will help me grow as a person,” Nguyen said. “I think I will gain a lot more confidence to do everything I need to do in the future moving to new places and learning how to adapt in new environments.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds the scholarship and provides up to $5000 for students who have received Pell Grants and hope to study abroad.

“Exposure to a new culture is always something that’s great,” Laura Seals, coordinator of nationally competitive scholarships, said. “Trang is Vietnamese, so she has a background in Vietnamese culture; she’s lived in America, and so now it’s an additional piece of that cultural puzzle.”

With the help of Seals and former Gilman scholar Alex Montoya, Nguyen overcame her writing challenges as a bilingual student and submitted her winning essays.

“The scholarship I got is thanks to the effort of everyone, and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Nguyen said. “You don’t even know how happy I was. I wasn’t expecting anything, and then I received $4000. It was really life-changing.”

Cornette Library Head of Circulation Beth Vizzini, whom Nguyen worked for as a library aide, said she believes Nguyen’s travels will be a “good learning experience.” After moving to America at the age of 15, Nguyen already has experience in adapting to a new country.

“She is a very perky, outgoing student,” Vizzini said. “[At the library], she was very excited to be able to work in customer service because number one, she wanted to work on her English, and number two, it was a way for her to learn about a different culture. I wish her luck and hope that she has a blast.”

Nguyen chose to study international business because of her desire to travel and eventually work in the hospitality industry of Vietnam.  She plans to first work in an American hotel to learn the business and then put her experience to use in her home country.

“I really feel passionate about my city,” she said. “I want to bring out the beauty [of Vietnam] and show how beautiful my culture is to the people around the world.”

Before beginning her semester, Nguyen is staying in Vietnam and practicing for her future in hospitality as a receptionist at a small hotel in her city.

“I meet people from around the world,” Nguyen said. “I can tell them where to eat good food, what to be careful of—I’m really happy, and I really enjoy it. It’s just something that I really love to do, and when I speak about it, my heart beats so fast.”

While Nguyen notices that people in Vietnam have begun to imitate American style, she hopes to show the Vietnamese the value of their traditions.

“If you’re American, you go to an Asian country to see the culture,” she said. “You don’t travel just to eat McDonald’s in another country. The things we see every day, we don’t see any beauty in it. I came back [to my city], and everything is so beautiful to me.”

In contrast, Nguyen admires the way that Japan has preserved its culture. Although intimidated by language barriers, she feels that Japanese life is “fascinating.”

“Japan is really developing right now; they’re expanding their business more than any country in the world,” Nguyen said. “Having the knowledge about their business and how the people work could help me to my advantage in the future.”

Following her return, Nguyen plans to speak about her trip at both WT and at her alma mater, Palo Duro High School.

“I think finances are what make people worry the most when they think about study abroad,” she said. “People may think they may not have enough money for that, but I think that in America, anything can happen if you want to do it. Along the journey, there will always be people there to help you to make it happen.”

With friends and passion pushing her onward, Nguyen will soon fulfill a lifelong ambition and move one step closer to her future goals.

“I have always wanted to go to Japan, and I have always wanted to make that dream come true someday,” Nguyen said. “I feel that with this dream, if I don’t do it now, when can I make it happen? Opportunities will come, but you have to get in there and make it happen.”

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