Student continues adapting to the language, culture and food.
By Adriana Ruiz
With a love for travel and adventure, manga and K-pop, marketing freshman Nhu Nguyen, 21, packed her bags and left her life in Vietnam to study in the U.S. as an international student.
Starting over can be a difficult task for anyone, but imagine starting a new life in a new country with little knowledge of the language, Nguyen said.
She said every day is a learning experience, but she enjoys being on campus.
“My first time here I didn’t know English,” Nguyen said. “I mean, I did know English but not really much — just enough.”
She said when she arrived in Texas, her first taste of the weather was colder than she imagined.
“I came in the wintertime, and it was really cold to compare to my country,” Nguyen said. “It was a little bit hard.”
Nguyen has lived in the U.S. for the past eight months with her uncle and four family members.
This is her second semester at this college, and she said she enjoys the cultural differences.
Her first class on campus was, ENGA 0305, Composition and Grammar.
“I didn’t know anyone here except my uncle’s family,” Nguyen said. “It was a little bit scary when I went to my first class.”
She said students here are very different compared to students at her prior school, Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology in Vietnam.
“The way students study is different,” Nguyen said. “Here, I think (students) need to study by themselves, like go to library or read a book, and the professors are so helpful.”
Nguyen said she spent two years in college in Ho Chi Mihn City but had to start her educational career over when she came to the U.S.
When she is not busy with schoolwork, Nguyen said she likes to read manga and listen to her favorite music groups.
“I really like K-pop. My favorite is Dong Bang Shin Ki,” she said. “It’s a boy group.”
She said she was devastated when a friend in Vietnam called to say DBSK was performing a concert in her hometown.
Nguyen said living in San Antonio has been a major culture shock.
She said she loves the River Walk but isn’t a fan of the food.
“No, I don’t like Mexican food; I don’t like American food either,” Nguyen said. “I do like Asian food, like Chinese, Korean food, Thai or Vietnamese. Vietnamese, of course.”
Nguyen said her biggest challenge is being away from her friends and family.
She talks about hanging out with friends in Vietnam every day, eating at her favorite pho restaurants, drinking bubble tea and going shopping.
“Over there in my country is a lot of fun, mostly because (in) my country, I see my people, my friends, all my friends, and in my country there are a lot of places to go and, like, entertain,” she said. “It’s not really parties, but just hang out, like, three or four group of friends hang out together … every day or every week and go eat or go drink a lot of places.”
Nguyen said she has made new friends here, and she has met many international students.
“Being an international student is really hard — I mean, at first to adapt to a totally different environment and to see a lot of people who don’t speak my language,” she said. “I see a lot of international students also — it’s really cool — but we all have the same problem.”
Martha Buchanan, coordinator of international students, said she really admires international students and their ability to pack up their bags and move to a foreign country where many times they don’t even know where they are going to live.
“These students are willing to pick up and move away from friends, family and home environments and go into a totally alien situation,” Buchanan said.
She said besides the language barriers and cultural obstacles, international students run into problems with living spaces, transportation and healthcare.
Buchanan said although students are excited to come as an international student, after a while students miss their families and become homesick.
“There is this honeymoon period,” she said. “They are so excited to get here and then homesickness sets in, loneliness sets, in and that’s why we try to get them involved with each other as well as with domestic students.”
Nguyen said she has always dreamed of coming to the U.S. to study English.
“America is really good — I mean, the best country,” she said. “I really wanted to go to America to study and learn a lot of things and to study English also.”
Nguyen said she plans on transferring to the University of Texas at San Antonio to finish her degree in marketing.
She said once she graduates she would like to gain some work experience before heading back home.
“I really want to go back to my country and do something related to the marketing field,” she said. “I really want to find a job here — just one or two years — just to, you know, to gain experience.”
Nguyen said she did a lot of research when trying to choose what school to attend. She said she is very happy with this college, and she believes she made a good decision coming here.
She said becoming an international student was complicated and is about a four-month process.
She said she went online and looked at many schools until she finally landed on this college, and she filled out an application.
“SAC is really good,” she said. “I think this is my good choice to study here. … The students are all really friendly, a lot of activities and professors — they (are) really nice. It’s a good place for international students.”