Studying abroad in the U.S. was Phu Le’s goal since she was a girl growing up in Vietnam.
“My aunt lived in the U.S., so every time she would come back to visit, she would talk about her life here,” she said. “To achieve my goal, I tried to learn English, get high grades in my university in Vietnam as well as prepare my document for an interview. When I finally got my visa to come to the U.S., I cried happy tears and my family did, too.”
Because of where her aunt lived, Le searched online for a school nearby and found College of DuPage.
“I watched every video on the website and fell in love with the school,” she said. “On my first day, my uncle brought me to register for classes. When I saw it for myself, it was so big and so beautiful, and everyone was so friendly. I thought, ‘Yes, this is the school for me.’”
However, it wasn’t easy at first. While she could read and write English, her listening and speaking skills were still improving and resulted in many confusing situations. Le initially enrolled in math, thinking she would not need to speak very much. However, her professor asked each student to read a question out loud and answer it.
“The question was not hard but I could not explain the way to solve it in English,” she said. “This made me nervous and discouraged and I wanted to drop out.”
To conquer her fears, Le looked for resources and discovered the Learning Commons, where she found help with a number of classes, including English 1101 and 1102 as well accounting, her major.
“At the beginning as I started to study my major, I faced many difficulties. But studying with tutors in the Learning Commons helped me a lot in solving many assignments’ problems,” she said. “I am also thankful to all instructors I studied with at COD. Each of them had a different impact on me. They were helpful and happy to answer my questions.”
As her confidence began to grow, she even began looking for opportunities to lead.
“It is hard for international students to learn something new in another country, so my friends and I organized a study group, and I stepped up as leader,” she said. “I set up the time and place for members to join us, and I delegated some members who were good at specific subjects to help other ones understand their lessons, homework or assignments. As a result, our group achieved good grades in our classes.”
Le also did everything she could to learn the language and culture of her new home. She read the newspaper and visited the Art Institute of Chicago. To relax, she would play her guitar, which she had learned how to do in Vietnam. She even had been vice president of a guitar club at her university.
By the time she graduated from COD with an Associate in Arts degree, Le was earning top grades and was named one of the College’s Outstanding Graduate finalists. She transferred to Lewis University to earn a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and then will take the exams to become a CPA. Her long-term goals may include returning to work in Vietnam.
As for COD, Le is glad the school helped her realize her dreams of studying in the U.S.
“The classes at COD allow students to express more ideas and share experiences, and people are so creative,” she said. “After three years from the first days I came to the U.S., I had become more confident, positive and stronger. I believe that if I work hard, nothing is impossible.”