Fulfilling a Dream

Bich, you have quite an interesting story about your journey to PSU. Could you tell us about the chain of events that led you here?

The story of my journey to PSU is so wonderful. In 2006, I was working at Duy Tan University, the only private college in Da Nang, Vietnam, where I am from. I worked in International Relations, and I was also in charge of teaching Vietnamese at the Vietnamese Language Center. The students were foreigners coming to Da Nang for visiting and business. There was a group of international guests from Global Volunteer Network who were volunteering at the University to support students with native English spoken language. I realized that this would be a good resource for me to introduce my Vietnamese program. However, these guest teachers walked by my office so fast that I didn’t have a chance to meet any of them to discuss the program.

One morning in March, I decided that I needed to meet some of the guests to talk about the program. I had collaborated with the security guard at the house gate to inform me when he saw any guest teachers leave the class. When the security guard informed me of a teacher who was leaving, I quickly left my desk with the brochure of the program in my hand and walked toward the door. Yet, I was still not quick enough and the teacher passed my office. I kept walking and followed him with determination. When I was not very far behind him, I decided to stop him by saying,

Excuse me, I am Bich. I am a staff of Duy Tan University. Could you please come to my office for a few minutes? I would like to introduce you to my Vietnamese program.

He turned back and now I could see in front of me was a tall man in his late 50s. He looked toward the school gate, smiling kindly and said,

It has been quite far from the school. Why don't we find a place to have a drink and you can talk about it?

I agreed and we walked to a coffee shop near the school. A few minutes later, Russ Thibeault, an economist, told me he would return to Laconia, New Hampshire, in a couple of days! He suggested that the next time he was back, he would be my student.

I almost forgot about this meeting. Two months later, after mailing my application for a U.S. Fulbright scholarship, I suddenly remembered this friend. I e-mailed Russ, attaching my Fulbright scholarship papers and asked him what he thought about it. I received his full support. Although the Fulbright scholarship did not work out, Russ and I continued to exchange e-mails and became closer friends.

I expressed to Russ my dream to have an opportunity to study in an English speaking country for a year or two to improve my English and to become a qualified teacher. Russ told me that he lived in Laconia and two of his four sons went to PSU. He said he would help me to contact the school and apply.

During the application process, Russ always told me that although this would be very difficult, it was not impossible. At the same time, Russ also told me to be realistic. “PSU will be a huge step in your life, but if you do not get it, I believe that you can still walk on your own way,” he said. In addition, Russ said that we would do our best, and we would not take no for an answer.

In October, after the meeting with College of Graduate Studies, Russ wrote to me that PSU was interested in my application, but there was no suitable financial aid available for my case yet.

In December, I got an e-mail from Russ saying that he would ask whether PSU could issue the letter of acceptance so he could do some fundraising to support the financial aid.

About ten days after this news, a miracle changed my life dramatically. I arrived at my office, turning on the computer to check my e-mails for news from Russ. An unread e-mail popped up in the mailbox. It was not from Russ. It was from PSU titled:

You're almost admitted into PSU.

Riding my motorbike on my way home that day, I felt I was the happiest person on the street. I could not imagine the dream had come true. I went to the American consulate for a visa interview in Hanoi in December 2006. That was also the first time I saw the capital city. I was approved for the student visa one day after the interview.

Before I left for America, my mother had prepared a meal with special foods and fruit on my ancestors’ and father’s altar. She asked them for blessing and support while I was in America. I got into airplane from Ho Chi Minh City to Hong Kong on January 23, 2006, then to Chicago, and finally arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire on January 24, 2006.

Russ and his family took care of the airfare and other expenses upon my arrival. The Rotary Club where Russ is a member also supported me with financial aid. With a full teaching fellowship, I worked as a graduate student in the social sciences department for Dr. Whitney Howarth, from whom I have learned a great deal and received so much love.

I had a great time at PSU! I didn’t feel lonely at all, though I was thousands of miles away from my family. I have received a lot of interest, care, love, understanding, support, and good friendships from PSU and people around me.

I am forever grateful for the great generosity of the American people and the College of Graduate Studies in accepting me into this terrific program. It is my huge fortune, and I know that not many people in the world can have this experience.

You recently completed the MEd in K-12 Education with a focus in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). What sparked your interest in the TESOL program?

I have liked learning English since I was in high school and I decided to choose English as my career. I went to college with a major in teaching English as a foreign language. Having learned English and taught English as a foreign language with traditional and disadvantageous methods, I have a strong desire to change the way my students will learn the language with the latest and the most effective teaching methods.

As Vietnam is a beautiful and friendly destination for tourists, visitors, and business corporations around the world, English is considered as a key to the door of the future. I think that after finishing the TESOL program at PSU, I will return to Vietnam being a qualified English teacher.

What courses, professors, or aspects of your graduate program have made a significant impact on your way of thinking?

I enjoyed every course of TESOL program. Such ESOL component courses as Language Teaching Methods, ESOL Literacy, and Designing and Evaluating Language Tests, have made significant improvements in my language teaching knowledge. The courses provided me with the latest, state-of-the-art language teaching approaches, reliable and valid methods of assessment, and the balanced approach to literacy instruction. I am now more confident than ever to teach English to learners from other languages. I have a better understanding about the language learning process and difficulties language learners from various L1 backgrounds encounter when they learn the second language. English language students need great support from ESOL teachers not only in language learning itself, but also in understanding the culture of the target language to achieve language proficiency and academic success.

What opportunities did this program provide for you that you would not have been able to experience otherwise?

One of the most valuable opportunities the program provided me is that I was living with the language and the culture of English native speakers while I was studying. I have learned a great deal about the lifestyle, the people, festivals, politics, and cultural values of American people. This is a great experience for me to bring back to Vietnam for my teaching.

It is true that the TESOL graduate program was quite challenging to me, especially since English is not my first language. However, I had a lot of support and assistance from PSU professors and staff that helped me to complete the program with great joy and good experiences. I always enjoy the reward of discovering and obtaining new knowledge of the field. Each time when I finish research or an assignment, I feel I have conquered one more challenge.


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