Newly Enrolled Vietnamese Student Learns About the Legacy of May 4, 1970

Vietnamese freshman Martin Phan had never heard of Kent State until he spoke with an alumnus of the university in Vietnam who spoke highly of the experience.

Martin Phan, his mother Hang and niece Linh, at the airport before leaving for Kent State.

Soon Phan was introduced to an agency that recruits students to study abroad and in August 2023 he was starting his first classes at Kent State.

Phan did not learn of the significance of May 4, 1970, until last August, when a friend, a sophomore from Vietnam, explained to him the tragedy that occurred on Kent State’s campus when the National Guard killed four students and wounded nine other people during a protest calling for the end of the Vietnam war.

Here is Phan speaking with Kent State Today about the May 4, 1970, shootings, and his amazement at how people so young could be so courageous.

Phan, 23, a nursing major in Kent State’s College of Nursing, is one of a growing number of Vietnamese citizens who have chosen to attend Kent State.

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

Life in Vietnam

Phan grew up in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, Vietnam, with his older sister Rose, his mother Hang and his father Vincent, who passed away suddenly two years ago.

“My Mom hoped my sister would come here to study instead of me,” Phan said. “She wanted me to stay in Vietnam, to live there and take care of them. I’m a family person. But my sister is not good at English. She couldn’t come here or apply for a Visa. She is taking care of the family.”

In Vietnam Phan earned a college diploma from BaRia-Vung Tau College of Education. A diploma, which is different from a degree, took 2.5 years to earn.

A “special thing is whatever the subject, you can study for free (in Vietnam),” Phan said. “You do not have to pay. And you get $150 towards expenses.”

Life at Kent State

Since fall semester of 2023, Phan has taken math, chemistry, psychology and physiology courses. He is excited about taking nursing courses but would like to become more accustomed to learning in English before he begins those courses.

“English is my second language and at times it has been hard for me to adapt to the language here and understand what the teachers are saying,” Phan said. “I need time to adapt before I start taking my nursing courses.”

Phan lives off campus in an apartment with an American roommate. He passed his written test for his driver’s license just last week. Now he must take the driving test. 

Phan is pleased that he chose to study abroad at Kent State, with its distinctive programs and welcoming community it is one of the best public universities in Ohio.

“For nursing Kent State is really good,” Phan said. “All the classrooms and equipment are modern, and the professors and teachers are friendly and helpful.”

POSTED: Tuesday, April 30, 2024 12:55 PM
Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2024 03:35 PM
April McClellan-Copeland
April McClellan-Copeland and Martin Phan