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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Vi Anh Nguyen

Photo by Alex Fontana.

Vi Anh Nguyen `22 knew she would end up in the United States for college since her first year of high school. Hailing from Hanoi, Vietnam, Nguyen’s high school sends the majority of its students to colleges in the United States, and her story is no different.  

Nguyen made her college decision in a very pragmatic way. “I applied to Grinnell, got good financial aid and just ended up here,” she said.   

At Grinnell, she found the areas of study, the people and the activities that work best for her. Today, she is involved with Nerf@Noyce and the Vietnamese Student Association.  

Nguyen said that Nerf@Noyce is her all-time favorite activity to participate in. Over the past four years her favorite memory was the campus-wide Nerf@Noyce competition her first year. Nerf@Noyce is her favorite activity, not just because the games are a blast, but also because of the people she’s met.   

“My boyfriend came to Nerf at Noyce often, and after we got together, we went a lot,” she said.  

The Vietnamese Student Association is an opportunity for Nguyen to share her culture with Grinnell while also connecting with other Vietnamese students at the College. She has found other avenues for sharing parts of her identity with her closest friends as well, one of which is cooking.  

“I like to cook anything. I love cooking and sharing it with my friends,” she said.  

The relationships important to Nguyen also extend to the professors who have helped her along her academic journey. The passion that her professors have for their work is contagious. Nguyen found easy communication another central factor to Grinnell’s appeal. Even throughout the pandemic, Nguyen met with her advisor regularly to talk about both current and future classes.   

“My high school was very competitive and cut-throat, but here I don’t have to go through that kind of pressure,” said Nguyen.  

A math major, Nguyen described both the classes she has taken and the research that she has conducted over the past four years. “I like my logic class that I’m taking now because it’s very hard, but when you understand it, it’s really rewarding.”  

This work and reward mindset has taken Nguyen far in both her classes and research, especially in her pure math research, which requires significant individual thought. Nguyen describes research in the math department as follows, “You have a topic question and then you read everything you need to know about it such as the definitions. Then you just sit by yourself for a long time and think about it. … It’s a lot of pen and paper and your brain.”  

Nguyen believes the more challenging the thinking, the stronger the feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction will be in the end.  

Over the past four years, Nguyen has stepped away from her home and outside of her comfort zone.  

She doesn’t feel that coming to the U.S. caused her much culture shock due to her exposure to U.S. culture over social media. Moreover, her adjustment to Grinnell College went relatively smoothly. She does mention, however, that parting from her family for long periods of time has been a major challenge.  

“The only thing that was surprising to me [after coming to Grinnell] was how many international students have relatives here or have visited here before, but I don’t have that. Sometimes it’s kind of sad, and I’ve wished that I have family here,” she said. 

Nguyen is looking forward to going home this summer, as she was not able to travel home for the entirety of this academic year.  

Next year, Nguyen will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne for her PhD in mathematics. She has expressed a desire for her work in mathematics to contribute to the greater good in some way, though she’s not sure how yet.  

I like my logic class that I’m taking now because it’s very hard, but when you understand it, it’s really rewarding. – Vi Anh Nguyen `22

Looking further into the future Nguyen said, “I want to be a professor. I guess that’s my dream. It feels kind of weird to say that.”  

A career as a professor would allow Nguyen to conduct research freely, with many resources at her disposal. Nguyen’s hopes of continuing in academia serves as only one reason why Nguyen is set on becoming a professor. She said the professors at Grinnell have been integral to her successful college experience and, ultimately, she wants to project her passion for mathematics and her love of teaching to students as Grinnell’s professors have done for her.  

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