Nguyen Trung Hieu, one of our fifty-four Co-Designers, reflects on the experience at Fulbright so far and welcoming potential classmates to campus.
Welcoming New Students
Fulbright’s Open House in Saigon was a totally different experience comparing with my previous event in Hanoi.
I felt overwhelmed the first time I entered Fulbright’s campus. For the first time during my time at Fulbright, there were over 400 people on our campus. As I didn’t have enough sleep the previous night preparing for the Academic Experience room, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day.
I didn’t believe that as the event went on, I would feel more and more awake. It was amazing to meet all of our participants, both students and their parents, feel their energy and listen to their questions, expectations, and concerns.
Though the students were all different, coming from different schools and provinces, having different backgrounds and interests, they came to Open House to get to know more about Fulbright, to find out whether they and Fulbright share the same goals and dreams.
There was one idea which I particularly remembered from Academic Experience session on creating a healthy learning environment. This parent said that he hoped students could develop not only career-oriented knowledge and skills at the university but also abilities to value other people and the power of kindness. These inputs definitely will help us as Co-designers build Fulbright’s learning environment and community.
When I was in Hanoi, I didn’t have much time to have conversations with participants. However, this time I felt like I was at home, welcoming our guests. It felt so right when I sat down and had a conversation with our guests, answering their questions and sharing my experience over the last few months.
Being the New Student
Learning at Fulbright is different from the learning experience in my previous university. We do not start with core courses right away. We started with an orientation week when we had the opportunity to get to know not only other co-designers but also our faculty and staff and Learning to Co-Learn course. We explored what it means to have a good learning mindset and how to communicate effectively with our peers.
As a student who had already had university experience from a traditional school before coming to Fulbright, this one month of setting common ground brought more values to me personally and helped me to prepare for upcoming coursework.
Courses instructed by two or three faculties majoring in different fields are designed to look at problems from different perspectives, not just limit ourselves to particular majors that we want to pursue in the future. For example, in a class, we examined a social dilemma from various aspects including psychology, philosophy, economics, politics and discovered the links between these fields.
I believe that it’s hard to choose a major at the age of 17 or 18, especially when there are significant differences between high school and university curriculum and students don’t have clear orientation beforehand. Thus, this way of learning will help me and other students to understand more about ourselves and all the options we have before deciding to focus on one specific path.
On the residential life aspect, no matter where each of us come from, we all have to live together in a dorm. This bridges the gap between students coming from different parts of Vietnam, enabling us to learn from others’ culture and lifestyles and creates a learning environment at both the campus and the dorm. We also take responsibility for our well-being, learning how to take care of ourselves and other people and respecting each others’ boundaries.
As I was sharing my academic and living experiences, I saw the stars in our guests’ eyes. Their excitement boosted my energy and all my tiredness vanished. I could not have asked for a better Sunday to welcome these awesome guests to Fulbright.
Nguyen Trung Hieu