By ANDREW HANSON
KEARNEY – When Thao Nguyen came to the United States in 2013 from Hue, Vietnam, she already had a college degree in her pocket.
Before she moved to North Platte to run the business operations of her uncle’s nail salon, Nguyen was an economics student at Hue University in her home country.
Initially, Nguyen thought about pursuing her master’s degree once she arrived in Nebraska. There were two obstacles, though.
Her English skills were limited, and she had to go through the complicated degree equivalency process.
“Making my degree equivalent to a U.S. one was possible,” Nguyen explained. “I needed to send my degree to Washington or New York or a state that has an Evaluation Degree Center. But with my English skills at the time, my confidence to work in a master’s program was zero.”
So Nguyen decided to keep track of the finances for the family business, Foxy Nails. She also worked on her English and enrolled in general studies classes at North Platte Community College.
But there was a catch. Nguyen needed to either go through the same process with her high school diploma that she opted not to do with her college degree, or she had to earn a GED certificate.
Her program at NPCC was flexible, and in 2014 she received her GED diploma.
“I was able to divide my time studying English, while also going through the program,” she said.
With an economics degree already in hand, Nguyen turned to accounting when she came to the University of Nebraska at Kearney last fall.
“I decided to go back to school for accounting because I had an internship back in my country where I learned a lot about it,” Nguyen added. “I realized that I had good opportunities available in accounting.”
Nguyen admitted there have been challenges going to school as a student with English as a second language.
“It can be daunting and sometimes even scary for me, but it has been a very worthwhile experience,” she noted. “I know there are many talented and accomplished individuals who are teaching at UNK. For me, earning a bachelor’s degree from UNK can make a significant difference in my professional and personal life. It’s the achievement of a lifelong dream.
“The idea of returning to school in a new major can present quite a challenge, but UNK is a perfect college for me and my sister to adapt to U.S. life and education.”
Nguyen’s sister, Nga, is studying chemistry, and her brother, Nam, is attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while Thao works toward her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an accounting emphasis and minor in finance.
She’ll graduate in May 2018 and plans to accrue the necessary 150 credit hours to qualify for the certified public accounting exam in the future.
“Upon graduation, it’s my dream to work for a bank in Nebraska as an accountant or work further to become an auditor,” Nguyen said.