To hone the blue funk of first-times


“The first time I go abroad, the first time I immerse myself knee-deep in an English environment, and also my very first time to have truly learned to thrive from my anxiety and fear of ‘first-times’” is how Duy recount his overseas clerkship in the US.

That is the mutual description all other TTU SBE students have in their trip to do internships in the US, too. They include Tran Thanh Binh, Nguyen Huynh Minh Duy, Pham Tieu My, Pham Doan Nhat Quan, Nguyen Duong Tri. For many of these five students, this is their first time going abroad and it is certainly to the US. For this trip, they could learn many new skills based on experiences that are “out of the common” and “eye-opening”.

SBE students with Senator Joe Pittman and representatives of other offices

A rounded community

According to Tri, there’s something very foreign in the way foreigners here in the state of Pennsylvania keep saying hi to one another no matter if they’ve already met and knew the other before or not. From the perspective of someone living in a country where people tend more to keep a distance and stay oblivious to passers-by like Vietnam, it is rather… weird.

However, it is sort of a “good-weird” experience to have. It seems that the very warm and gentle demeanour of the native helps these five johnny-come-lately students to get on the beat of the new place within a very short time of their stay in the US.

“The amiable look that almost all people here have about them really helps me to stay more open to the people all around. I can’t say how much it helped me in my communication skills.” Tri, who is now doing his internship at the Small Business Development Center of Indiana University of Pennsylvania said.

Nguyen Duong Tri at his rotation office

Aside from the initial impact as a turn up for the books, this experience, for sure, was a good opportunity for all students to cherish their self-confidence as someone very unique which will in turn, become a big support when they need to speak to the public or interact with their clients either for their work or lives.

Duy, however, felt that with big cars, Americans also show their big hearts to pedestrians, very much different from the way motorcycles in Vietnam fighting each last tiny gaps off walkers even on the sidewalk.

“They have plenty of crossroads, big and small here that don’t have a traffic light. I think maybe they don’t need them at all as never did I see a car that didn’t stop and check carefully for pedestrians who may want to cross the street every time they approach the crossing.” Duy, who is rotating at the office of Pennsylvania State Representative Jim Struzzi said.

From the smallest edifying act such as respecting the order of the community for its own good rather than each of its member fighting using their sheer power, to the more humane attitude the natives here have for each other, they all agree that they learned so much from those who are very well-rounded.

Nguyen Huynh Minh Duy with Representative Jim Struzzi

An interpersonal individualistic work culture

Talking about his duties at the PA Rep. Jim Struzzi, Duy says that they range from poster design, call representative, electronic equipment check, work scheduling, regular meeting with locals…

“What really struck me was the fact how a positive and open work culture is encouraged to hang there in the air. Even as a newcomer, I always feel a warm bucking up from other people to speak up to contribute to the meeting.” Said Duy.

The way that other people are willing to put aside their work to help a newbie like him, he said, makes it feel very encouraged and interpersonal. However, it’s not the sort of laid-back efficiency-compromised culture at all, but on the contrary, each person must understand what they’re expected to meet their job requirements to the best. That, he calls an “interpersonal-individualistic work culture” and the initial exposure to this culture will help students to a great extent in learning the professionalism expectation at work later in their career.

Learn to form, not to be formed

“Free to explore” is a common recurrence when these five students talk about their learning experience with the course Academic Research and Writing in the US. Instead of taking the lecturer’s word by word as often seen in East-Asian countries learning culture, they learn to learn by discussion and exchange of ideas with the lecturer so as to converge on an approach best fit each individual. With this learning method, students will have the space crucial for their creativity to excel.

Academic Research and Writing class of Dr. Henry Webb

Moreover, the learning mode that Dr. Henry Webb applies throughout the course makes sure that students constantly receive the feedback. It will ensure that students are developing and picking up on the lessons to apply to the production of presentations and other learning outcome most beneficial to each individual student.

“The fact that I will give a presentation to the whole school of Eberly College of Business and Information Technology (IUP) really shakes my nerve. But with this anticipation, I’m ever more wiser to the saying ‘no pressure, no diamond’.” Said Duy.

SBE students after their presentations to IUP professors

The trip to business observation and internship of these five students from TTU SBE in the United States must be a very rewarding experience. They for sure will rocket with new skills learned from experiences out of the common in a foreign country half a world away. With brand new exposure like that of this trip, students, as Duy put it, will learn to no longer be “in a blue funk about ‘first-times’” anymore.