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Dedicated to Her Dream

Monday, December 20, 2021

Dedicated to Her Dream

Vietnam native learns English, earns nursing degree

Image: Dedicated to Her Dream

Thuy Dung Hoang moved from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Spring Valley in 2014. Since then, she has learned English, and on Tuesday, Dec. 21, she finished her associate’s degree in nursing with a 3.83 GPA from Chippewa Valley Technical College in River Falls.

When Thuy Dung Hoang came to the United States in 2014 from her homeland of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, she knew only a few words in English.

She participated in a nursing pinning ceremony at Chippewa Valley Technical College in River Falls on Monday and graduated on Tuesday with her associate’s degree in nursing.

The pinning ceremony is an emotional event where nurses and their families celebrate the journey of becoming a nurse.

For Hoang, it meant so much more.

“I am so proud,” she said from her home in Spring Valley. “I am the first in my family to go to college. In my culture, women don’t go to school anywhere. You get married and you don’t have anything outside of the family.

“It took me so long to finish, but I did it.”

In Vietnam
Before Hoang was born in 1976, her father fought in conjunction with U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam War.  After the war, and as Hoang’s family was growing to a total of six children, her father couldn’t find work. At the age of 11, Hoang, the oldest child, had to help out.

“I had to get a job for very little money to help my mom and dad and the family,” she said. “Early on I had to learn how to work and support my family. I learned that persistence and resilience pay off.”

In 2005, Hoang moved to Japan to work in manufacturing. She stayed there for three years, but she wanted to learn English and get closer to Ho Chi Minh and her family.

She said it’s difficult to find people in her country who are English speaking. Therefore, she chose to work at a restaurant near the international school.

“I went over there to work in the restaurant so I can communicate with professors who come to the restaurant after teaching,” she said.

That’s where she met her husband – an American-born man who was teaching at the American International School.

After four years of dating, including some long-distance stretches, Hoang and her now husband were married in 2014, coinciding with her move to the United States.

“With the different language and culture I was so nervous,” she said. “It’s so different.”

To compound the feeling, Hoang wanted to get a job right away when arriving in the U.S., but she couldn’t understand the language even though she had put herself in a situation to try to learn from others in Vietnam.

“I wanted to go work but I couldn’t get a job,” she said. “I went to one company and it just didn’t work out because they interviewed me and I couldn’t understand much. I just felt so sad. I knew I can’t communicate with people like this. I had to look for a school to teach me.”

Path to CVTC
CVTC in River Falls was the closest college to Hoang. She took advantage of the English Language Learning course. She bought books so she could translate Vietnamese to English and vice versa. She also purchased math books to get the hang of that too. And she got a job.

“After work I would read the books at home and look up a lot of words in the dictionary, and then I would forget and then look again,” she said. “It took a year of doing it and getting better.”

That’s when she decided to apply to a CVTC program. She started with Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

Hoang would get home from school and study by reading at the counter every night. If she didn’t understand, she’d read it again and again and again, usually with the dictionary open to look up words she didn’t know.

“I remember one of my instructors told me when I went for the nursing pre-requisite, ‘You know why you’re so good? Because you have to study so hard,’” Hoang recalled. “Sometimes I have to read two or three times until I get it.”

In 2015 she passed her CNA class. In 2017 she started the Nursing associate degree. She took one class at a time because she knew more classes would be too much.

CVTC Academic Advisor, Michelle Sailor, said Hoang traversed adversity, worked hard and earned her degree.

“She was frequently on campus working on school work and struggled pretty early on with language limitations, but has always reached out for help, utilized resources and excelled in the program,” Sailor said.

Hoang graduated from her nursing program with a 3.83-grade point average.

Minda Matthys, CVTC college navigator, said Hoang “worked her tail off” to be successful in the program.

“When I think about her success, it can be credited to her own determination and support of CVTC and her husband,” Matthys said.

Hoang already has a job lined up at the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Menomonie. She will work as a registered nurse on one of the floors as soon as she passes her state board of nursing exam to be licensed.

“I always wanted to be a nurse, but I never had a chance to be able to pursue college,” she said. “When I came here, my husband said if you want to go back to school, you can do it! If you’d love to be a nurse and to go to school, you can do it.”

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