Emigration to education, a Troop Support student trainee’s six-year career vision comes to life

By John Dwyer III DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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When someone is asked where they see themselves in ten years, the answer rarely involves a trans-global relocation to a country whose language and culture is unfamiliar. But with a solid work ethic and dedication to succeed, Hue T. Nguyen is making that vision a success story.

Nguyen, a student trainee with the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, arrived in the U.S. from Vietnam six years ago seeking opportunities for education and a career.

This spring, she is completing an associate degree from Camden County College and transferring to Rutgers University in pursuit of a degree in accounting. All while working in the Industrial Hardware supply chain, and taking her vision another step closer to realization.

Growing up, moving out

Growing up in Ben Tre, a rural province about 56 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen and her three sisters were raised with traditional Vietnamese values with emphasis from her parents on hard work and the importance of family.

”I saw my parents work hard to take care of us … so after I turned 17 or 18 I knew I had to find the confidence in myself to go work and take care of myself and give back to my parents,” Nguyen said.

But Nguyen says the education and job opportunities in Vietnam are not as good as in the U.S.

“Here there is a very, very high quality of life and education for every kind of person and [at any] age,” said Nguyen.

In Vietnam, she noted, children must progress to a university right after high school or they cannot go back when they are older.

After graduating high school, Nguyen got a job in sales to help her parents. No longer able to attend college in Vietnam, she looked beyond the border for other opportunities.

“America is a huge country. I wanted to challenge myself and get a better life,” Nguyen said.

Stepping out on her own, Nguyen moved to Philadelphia with her uncle, and got a job three days later despite not knowing much English or how to drive a car since most motor vehicle traffic in Vietnam is via motorcycle.

Making her vision a reality

Eventually, Nguyen enrolled in Camden County College to pursue accounting. There, she met friends that helped her enhance her communication skills and introduced her to DLA’s student trainee program – a way to combine her education and career goals.

She didn’t hesitate to apply. 

“I couldn’t even imagine,” Nguyen said. “I just applied to try to get lucky. If I could get this job while I go to school …” she recalled thinking and hoping.

She was happy to learn she was accepted into the student trainee program, but she says the pride her family felt was the best part of it.

“Every time I talk to [my family] about this job, they are so proud of me,” Nguyen said.

Maintaining a balancing between two languages and cultures, Nguyen appreciates the objective understanding and assistance her Troop Support co-workers and supervisors have for her as a new employee.

“When I came [to Troop Support], I learned so many things,” Nguyen said. “My supervisor teaches me and is helpful. Even some people that are not on my team help me.”

What’s next?

Since starting at Troop Support in March, Nguyen has incorporated a more specific goal to her plan: to be a contracting officer.

She is confident she’ll find the way to meet that goal.

“I have to learn how to do a good job here … I want to learn [contracting] and how to get an award for your buyer,” she said. “I am waiting for the [IT access process], and I will get training.”

Despite her successes chasing her vision, Nguyen gets homesick at times. Food and family are what she misses most.

She loves the steak in the U.S., and shared that she was taken aback at her first Thanksgiving since she was raised thinking turkeys – although delicious, she admits - were only for pets or decoration as is the case in Vietnam.

Nguyen also found that the best “taste of home” she had so far was in California on a trip she took with her uncle early in her time in the U.S.

“They cook the right way,” Nguyen said.

As for family, she calls home often and spends holidays with families from her church. Although she admits it’s a challenge being away from her own family, she is comforted by the welcoming members of her church and phone conversations with her parents and sisters.

On those calls, her parents sometimes ask if she wants to come back home to Vietnam.

“No,” Nguyen tells them. “I love it here.”

She says she is “on a roll” with her professional goals, and is happy with her progress. Her life goals now are pretty typical.

“I just want to improve my life with a good job, get married, and have some kids,” Nguyen said. “Just have a normal life.”

Nguyen also hopes to one day bring her parents to the U.S. and help them as they grow old. With the skills and abilities her parents gave her coupled with Nguyen’s drive to succeed, she feels like nothing can stop her.

“I feel like I am confident in myself,” Nguyen said. “I can do anything … I am not afraid of anything.”