Saigon, located in southern Vietnam, is her hometown, but she has lived in Virginia since the age of eight.
Minh-Nhat applied early decision to Mason her senior year of high school. By the end of senior year, she already saw herself ending up at Mason. Minh-Nhat is now a junior majoring in Biology and Pre-Med with a minor in Information Technology. She is on her way to medical school.
Contrary to popular myths about science majors, Minh-Nhat has a life outside of labs and bio exams. She does admit that bio is a lot of work and information to take in all at once. She has to plan life around exams and studying.
Minh-Nhat started Mason in 2013, and she also joined the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) that same semester.
Founded in 1976, VSA’s mission is to meet the needs of members and the Vietnamese and Asian-American community. The organization has over 100 members, and she is one of its most active members.
I interviewed her this week about her connection to VSA and the Vietnamese community.
Why did you join VSA?
“My high school didn’t have a VSA, an Asian-American club, or anything like that. My senior year, I went to VSA’s Culture Show. That got me really hyped up. I had a few Vietnamese friends, but I wanted to meet more people too. I’ve never lost sight of my heritage.”
What is your role in VSA?
“I served as Culture Chair my sophomore year (2014-15). My role was to promote Vietnamese culture. I had to organize social events. Outside of Mason’s VSA, I used to teach little kids Vietnamese, so I thought it’d be fun to teach VSA members the basics. It was a fun, social event. There wasn’t a language event before. I can say I started the tradition. We, or the new culture chair, are still doing the classes.”
Minh-Nhat actually has over three years of experience volunteering as a teacher assistant at Vietnamese community programs. Minh-Nhat has made a valuable teacher assistant to the DMV area, which has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the U.S.
This year she is Internal Vice President and is more involved in planning events.
The internet shows you’re pretty busy with Vietnamese culture events. Can you tell me about some of these events?
“VSA attends VietFest, which is run annually by NOVAL-DC, a non-profit organization. VietFest promotes Vietnamese heritage. During VietFest, VSA can recruit members. Last year we had a tent in Tysons Corner. We sold Thai tea, sweet tea, and lemonade. And we looked for volunteers. In 2014, we had performances. I was one of the performers.
VSA is part of MAUVSA (Mid-Atlantic Union of Vietnamese Student Association). We’re involved in conferences and leadership camps to connect VSA’s in the region, so we can share info and grow.”
“Outside of VSA, I’m also involved with the Ket Doan Association, a non-profit organization for Vietnamese-Americans. In 2015, I ran for Miss Ao Dai during the Maryland Tet Festival. Tet’s the Vietnamese New Year.
Miss Ao Dai is like any pageant. I walked, I had a dress, and I did a Q & A. In 2016, I came back to perform. I did a modern dance, but traditional dance is also my thing.”
The ao dai is a traditional dress in Vietnam.
What does the ao dai mean to you?
“When I wear it, I feel very proud… Beautiful and classy… Elegant. But I think it’s also a physical way to identify myself as a Vietnamese woman.”
The show will feature dance, modern and traditional, and runaway fashion. Last year, I helped direct and write the script.
This year I’m doing the fashion show and dancing.”
What would you like to share with the GMU community about VSA or the Vietnamese community?
“Because Mason’s so diverse, it’s hard to get our name out there and make a presence. VSA’s a part of APAC (Asian Pacific American Coalition), a coalition for all Asian organizations, fraternities and sororities, and I want people to know that we are here.
We’re inclusive. You don’t have to be Vietnamese. We currently have members who have a heritage other than Vietnamese. If you take a bigger snapshot of VSA, it’s a place to meet people, especially for freshmen. People should join VSA. That’s my message.”