by Vicky Gunawan – Horizon News and Features Editor
He had never been out of his country. He was entering a completely different region of the world. He could not smell his mother’s cooking. He could not hear his language spoken. He was about to find out that he was the only student from his country. He was the only one and the first one, ever.
As the first Vietnamese student to set a foot on Hesston College campus last January Thang Nguyen, more widely known as Alex, created history.
But Nguyen did not mind being the only Vietnamese student in the college. He quickly fit in with other students. His strategy for avoiding homesickness was to study, study, and study.
“I don’t want to get homesick, and I want to get good grades,” Nguyen said.
After a short, productive semester had passed, the new school year surprised him with another Vietnamese student, Tien Tran.
Tran also worked hard ever since her arrival at Hesston three weeks ago, both psychologically and academically. For her, her family was by far the best motivation.
“It’s being obedient to our parents. It’s to be good students and get good jobs,” Tran said.
But even good students get homesick too, in one way or another. For them, the food was what they missed the most, but they had their own strategies for coping.
“You just eat when you’re hungry,” Nguyen said. Or, “you just try to like American food, like peanut butter,” Tran added.
For Nguyen, he also misses his family, friends, and what his capital city has to offer.
“We have many small shops around town,” he said. “There is also a park in Hanoi that I used to walk a lot, sometimes with my friends, sometimes by myself.”
Saturday afternoons are usually spent with his friends over cups of coffee and hours of talking. It is not as easy for him to go out for a cup of coffee in Hesston. Instead, he crams his weekends with more studying and Skyping with his family and friends from back home.
Tran also misses a lot, even the simple things like hearing the traffic and having her own space in her room, hanging out with her friends, and going to a bookstore to read.
“In here it’s hard,” she said. “I have a lot of stuff to do. And there is no big bookstore for me to read.”