When Diep Nguyen first moved to the United States, she often conversed using just the words yes and no.
The Vietnam native had studied English for six years and could speak the language well, but she was afraid that people would judge her accent and the fact that she was from another country.
She soon discovered that the opposite was true.
Its so nice to know that people have so much respect in this part of the country, she said.
Now, as Nguyen graduates Saturday from Wesleyan College, its bittersweet to leave a place that has become a second home and a country that was once a little intimidating.
Nguyen, 22, will attend The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland, as she works toward a career in nonprofit organizations -- specifically the United Nations Childrens Fund. An international relations major, Nguyen has spent her college career reaching out to others in her home country.
For the past five years, Nguyen has returned to Vietnam to work with Educational Programs for Vietnamese Students. She supervises English summer camps for underprivileged children, who learn to speak the language just as Nguyen did.
Its an important task for Nguyen, who attended a similar camp during her childhood, which helped convince her to travel to the United States for her education.
Nguyen became the first person in her family to seek an education abroad when she attended high school in Charleston, South Carolina, through an international student scholarship.
I had never heard of Charleston before, and it was a lot different from Vietnam, she said. It took me a good month or two to get used to it.
When she began applying for college, a friend suggested that Nguyen look into Wesleyan. Nguyen had attended one of the first all-girls schools in Vietnam, and the school she attended in South Carolina used to be an all-boys school. So Wesleyan, a womens college, seemed to fit the trend.
I didnt even get a chance to visit campus before coming to Wesleyan, she said. But after taking a couple of classes, it was absolutely amazing.
Nguyen, who is passionate about photography and will graduate with a photography minor, initially considered a photography major, but her parents urged her to consider other options. Thats when she began taking political science and international relations classes, and she soon became hooked.
In fact, Nguyen recently won an award for being a top student in the international relations department.
One of her professors, Barbara Donovan, will remember Nguyen as a serious student who always asked questions and was completely engaged in research.
She is one of those people that, in a couple years, Im going to be reading her articles or her books, Donovan said, or in several years, shes going to be having an impact on policy discussions in Vietnam.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.