Student of the Month: Hoa Nguyen
Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hoa Nguyen’s story in East Lansing did not begin with IAOP on MSU’s campus as it does for most international students. Instead, Hoa enrolled at East Lansing High School in 2011 when his mom was accepted into a doctoral program at Michigan State. He spent one year at ELHS before graduating and took a gap year before starting his bachelor’s degree. Hoa credits much of his success at MSU to the extra time he had to adjust to American life and the help that he has received from advisors and professors.
Coming from Vietnam, Hoa has experienced living and studying in two very different cultures. “East Asian countries have a lot of traditions that you have to follow. You live your whole life in an imaginary box that constrains you. Here there are no guidelines that you are required to follow”. Growing up in Vietnamese culture, however, has given Hoa the tools that he needs to be successful in America. “My whole life I was systematically trained to be disciplined. This helps me to continuously work hard. When I have a goal I consistently work hard until I complete it”. Hoa recognizes that there can be a massive culture shock for some students who are not used to the unrestrained way of life in the US. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” he recommends, “I get a lot of help from people around me like professors and advisors. When I first came here it was hard for me to get out there, but I realized that it is necessary to get what I want”.
One way Hoa pursued something that he wanted was by asking Professor Dahsin Liu if there were any lab research positions available for him. Professor Liu recognized Hoa’s strengths after he performed well in class and the duo now conduct dynamic testing on composite material in the engineering lab. This research opportunity also led Hoa to the Ensure Program at MSU which “offers summer research opportunities for high achieving undergraduates”. This program paired Hoa up with a graduate student who was conducting similar research aimed at finding cheaper and lighter means of building a car while maintaining safety regulations. Their project was presented at the Undergraduate Research Mid-SURE Annual Symposium for Undergrad Research Experiences convention at the end of Summer 2016. Through this experience, Hoa learned what it was like to be a graduate student and how to present academic research in a professional setting. “That experience would not have been possible if I didn’t ask Professor Liu for the initial research position. Asking people for help makes getting what you want a lot easier”.
Despite his relatively easy transition from ELHS to MSU, Hoa’s experience in college has not been without its struggles. Like many students, both domestic and international, Hoa’s ability to study at MSU was only made possible through support from different financial outlets. Getting into the Honors College gave him access to scholarships which have helped him study here. Additionally, Hoa works as a tutor for students who need help in engineering subjects. His research position with Professor Liu also helps pay the bills.
Hoa suggests students reach out to professors whose classes they have done well in for research positions because it pays better than many other jobs on campus and it provides endless opportunities to further academic success and build resumes for graduate school. Hoa also recommends that international students facing financial troubles talk to an OISS advisor because they can be very helpful in providing assistance or directing students to other places where other assistance may be available. Above all, however, Hoa insists on being proactive.
“When you approach a problem you have to be proactive and know that you can solve it. Through my job as a tutor, I have seen a lot of students struggle, but when they approach the issue with a positive mindset it is a lot easier to accomplish. Having the right attitude is a great help when you are trying to solve anything”.