I come from a small village in Vietnam where the rural transportation system is very poor. There are many accidents because of poor road design. It’s my hope that one day I will be able to return to Vietnam and help engineer highways in order to reduce the accidents and deaths on our roadways.
In order to do that, though, I had to get an education. And to do that, I knew I would have to leave my small village. Once I made the decision to leave my home in Vietnam and get my college education in the United States, I had to prove several things in order to obtain my educational visa. I had to prove I had the ability to earn a degree in civil engineering and had the financial support necessary to pay my tuition. But to do all that, I first had to face my biggest challenge — learning the English language.
My English was very poor when I arrived on campus, but UNF’s concentrated evening program in English as a Second Language (ESL) helped me learn the basics quickly. It was one of the only universities that offered such assistance. I was able to get my associate’s degree and then concentrate on the engineering program.
I’ve been lucky in that I’m participating in a research project with a professor who is teaching me a great deal about road design. We have been researching ways in which we can evacuate the campus in an emergency. This has taught me valuable lessons that will be of help to me when I return to my country.
I’ve also had many opportunities to get involved in student organizations. One of the most fulfilling to me is my membership in the Vietnamese Student Association. We promote an appreciation of our culture, support each other and sponsor community events such as cultural performances, picnics and parties. I’m also a math tutor for students who need help in an area in which I am strong. These activities have made me feel part of the campus.
The scholarships UNF has offered me — First Coast Manufacturing Association and NE Florida Engineers Week Committee — have definitely lessened the financial burden on my family back in Vietnam. My younger sister is living with me here in Jacksonville as she completes her education. My parents are middle class and with six children, they would not have been able to afford my education without this scholarship help.
I’ve now been able to get my green card and am a permanent resident. I’m interested in getting my master’s degree in engineering at UNF and then returning to my country where the need for engineers is great. UNF has inspired me to hope one day to make a difference in my homeland.