As Enrollment of Vietnamese Students Grows, Some Feel Connection to May 4

When Tram Nguyen visited the Independence Palace in her native Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in February she was unaware that her destiny was tied to a place she had never heard of – Kent State University.  

That was when Nguyen saw, for the first time, the Pulitzer prize-winning photo of Jeffrey Miller, his body lying on the ground with a 14-year-old runaway screaming over him. The Ohio National Guard had opened fire on a group of Kent State students, killing four, including Miller, and wounding nine. 

Nguyen learned from the photo’s narrative that the Kent State students had lost their lives during a protest calling for the end of the Vietnam war. 

It impressed her so; she instantly felt a connection to Kent State and enrolled for fall 2023 as a graduate student in the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship making her one of a growing number of Vietnamese citizens who have chosen to attend Kent State. 

Here is Nguyen speaking with Kent State Today: 

Thanh Cao, a Kent State program manager based in Ho Chi Minh City, is responsible for recruiting Nguyen and other students from Southeast Asia. 

“I'm building everything from the beginning,” Cao said. “Kent State is very new [to Vietnamese students]. They don't know about Kent State and Ohio is not a popular destination for Vietnamese students. We like California and Texas, where we have a big population of Vietnamese people.” 

Since the fall of 2021, enrollment of students from Vietnam has grown from 17 students to 29 in fall 2023. Cao said she has recruited seven Vietnamese students since she began working with Kent State in 2022. Cao visits Kent State once a year in the fall. 

Cao was living in Toronto and had moved back to her hometown Ho Chi Minh City when she saw learned that Kent State needed someone to market and recruit students in Southeast Asia. 

She had never heard of Kent State either but knew there would be a market for the university because of its affordability.    

Nguyen, 22, is majoring in business analytics and plans on becoming a financial analyst in the financial technology industry. In 2019, she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City 

Tram Nguyen, a new Vietnamese graduate student, visits the May 4 Center for the first time.
Tram Nguyen, a new Kent State student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, visits the May 4 Center for the first time since she arrived in Kent in August 2023.

Nguyen and most of the other Vietnamese students live on the Kent Campus, Cao said. The students are fluent in English because it is a compulsory course in Vietnam from the third grade until graduation. 

Being so far away from home for the first time can be lonely, but having a Vietnamese roommate and talking to her parents twice a day via Facebook Messenger gives Nguyen and her parents peace of mind. 

Her brother, who is a freshman at the University of Vietnam, wants to study abroad as well. 

“I tell my brother that you can give your opinion in this country and have a comfortable life. I’m having a memorable time in Kent. The campus is beautiful and there are a lot of dedicated employees working here.” 

Tram Nguyen, a native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, loves Kent State.
POSTED: Thursday, October 19, 2023 12:46 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023 12:07 PM
April McClellan-Copeland