This International Student Thrives on Worthy Challenges

Hoa Nguyen in Carcassonne, a medieval town in southern France

Hoa Nguyen in Carcassonne, a medieval town in southern France

When Hoa Nguyen ’18 ventured halfway around the world to attend Mount Holyoke, she was determined to take part in everything the college provides for a comprehensive global education. Her college career would soon take her to Montpellier, France and to New York City and Washington DC. On campus, where nearly one-third of the student body hails from over 70 countries, she formed friendships that gave her new ways of understanding the world.

Back home in Hanoi, while still in high school, Nguyen could only assess U.S. colleges by their websites. Yet even in Viet Nam, Mount Holyoke’s reputation as a welcoming place for international students reached her, as did the promise of its liberal arts approach encouraging students to pursue their individual interests.

Nguyen was forward-thinking from the start and designed a special major in journalism and mass communication, later adding a second major in French.

“I’m always driven to immerse myself in something new, something I have no idea about,” Nguyen said, tossing in dance, printmaking, and fencing classes over her four years, including joining the Victory Eights, MHC’s A Cappella group with a turn performing as a soloist.

In her 3rd year, she attended a French immersion through MHC’s program in Montpellier, France, boosting her language skills beyond her expectations. Nguyen says multilingualism has given her a “kaleidoscopic personality” that she can use to interact and adapt across cultures. “I notice I speak a higher pitch in Vietnamese, lower and louder in English, and softer, with more ‘body language’ in French.”

In her later semesters, Nguyen won an editorial internship at Women’s eNews in New York and covered an event featuring Gloria Steinem, and then went on to earn another prestigious internship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars'Women in Public Service Project, offered through MHC’s Weissman Center for Leadership. At the Wilson Center, she worked to empower women to serve their communities and their nations through participation in public office.

With graduation just weeks away, Nguyen had to make a tough choice between two summer job offers—one with Forbes Magazine and the other with the American Bankers Association (ABA). In keeping with her desire to learn more about things she knows the least about, she accepted the ABA position and is excited to return to Washington DC which she grew to love while at the Wilson Center.

Nguyen has this advice for other students, especially her international peers:

- Learn about U.S. culture and how diverse it is.

- It’s okay if everything isn’t perfect. You learn more when things aren’t perfect.

- The beauty of a liberal arts education is that takes you to different places and experiences you could never have explored on your own. So, engage. If not now, when?