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At age 15, most American teenagers are hanging out with friends and practicing for their driver’s license. Thuy Anh Nguyen was checking her mailbox for college acceptance letters and adjusting to American life.

Nguyen grew up in Vietnam as the child of diplomats. When she was 13, her family moved to Washington D.C. because of her mother’s occupation. 

“As a child of diplomats, the exposure to many cultures from an early age opened up my mind,” said Nguyen.

After skipping two grades, she prepared to attend college as a freshman at age 15. Nguyen applied to many universities in the United States, but she still remembers opening BYU’s acceptance letter and full scholarship.

“I can still feel the excitement and tears of joy,” said Nguyen.

Anh Nguyen
Photo Credit: 
Tabitha Sumsion/ BYU Photo

Her next challenge would be to decide which university to attend. Nguyen chose to attend BYU because of the quality education students receive. She valued that some of the professors attended excellent graduate schools. BYU students are driven and competitive, Nguyen said. But the learning environment was one of the most important factors Nguyen considered in choosing BYU.

“I did some research, and I picked BYU because it has a very uplifting environment and I have the opportunity to meet people who share the same values as I do,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen is eager and proud to tell her family about BYU’s history, achievements and values while celebrating her own achievements: She’s graduating with a double major in Political Science and Economics with a double minor in mathematics and Management at age 20.

Along with starting college at a young age, Nguyen had to work through a second language and cultural differences. The language barrier was tough to overcome in some conversations, which can be very complex to translate.

“To overcome this, in an atmosphere where there are many cultures coexisting together, I tried to make as many friends as possible,” said Nguyen. “I realized making friends with people from other cultures helps me become more open-minded, and I learned a lot by embracing other cultures.”

From her early start, through her classes in a second language, to her adaptation to American culture, Nguyen learned a lot here and has many insights for students.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience you have,” said Nguyen.

Mistakes are learning experiences. Don’t be afraid to take risks, especially if those risks help you figure out who you are and who you want to be. Learn from other’s experiences. Balance your priorities.

“Get experience, give experience,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen will take the experience she gained at BYU to her job as a financial analyst. Immediately following her graduation, Nguyen will work for the World Bank Group in Washington D.C. After working for a few years, Nguyen would like to continue her education in law school.

“Being a lawyer gives me the necessary background and degree to reach out to people who need help,” said Nguyen. "It's also about being challenged, that you're constantly using your brain and feeling intellectual simulated."

After law school, Nguyen hopes to work for international development organizations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, World Bank to combat poverty and work closely with government to develop policies that will improve the lives of the poor.