Three years ago, Thuy Pham was working for a multi-national bank in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. She had already risen to a management position by her mid-20s, and easily could have continued climbing the corporate ladder. But she wasn’t interested in doing what was easy.
With the support of her family, Pham left her position to pursue an MBA in America—a country she had never visited before.
“I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone. But after four years working at big corporations, I was stuck in a routine. I worked hard, and had a natural passion for contributing to community developments. But what I was doing didn’t feel meaningful. I wanted to change and challenge myself,” she said.
Pham was looking for a career where she could help people, not just generate profits. And since she also had a passion for travel—she had already been all over Southeast Asia, Europe, and Australia—coming to America made a career change even more exciting.
However, when she arrived the country didn’t look like what she had imagined. “In movies, there are tall buildings and it is crowded with lots of people. More like New York City. But in Orange County there are mountains, clean air; it’s so quiet and peaceful and different than Ho Chi Minh City. But I like it. It made me realize how noisy and polluted cities can be.”
Though she often communicated in English for her job in Vietnam, Pham spent a spring semester of four months in the ALP Pre-MBA program refining her language skills. The program helped her get to know the CSUF environment and school operations, while also providing specialized courses preparing her for the high-level business classes she would take as part of her MBA degree.
One of the highlights of her two years in business school was a trip to Brazil and Argentina with 17 of her MBA classmates.
“By talking to American friends I was able to correct the pronunciation errors common in Vietnam,” she said. “The composition class taught me how to write correctly and even use APA style, which is mandatory for most papers in masters’ courses. So when I went to graduate school I didn’t feel confused. I was confident in my writing.”
One of the highlights of her two years in business school was a trip to Brazil and Argentina with 17 of her MBA classmates. On her own time, she also traveled throughout America, visiting Nashville; Ohio; Boston; San Francisco; Washington, DC; and New York City, which did look like the America she had seen in movies.
“Everyone should visit New York. The traffic is crazy. The atmosphere is crazy. The smells are . . . interesting,” she noted. “But it made me appreciate coming here, where it is more peaceful and I can relax.”
Not surprisingly, Pham will continue globetrotting before setting down for the next phase of her career. The summer after graduation she was selected for the African Markets Internship Programme 2013 of the Tony Elumelu Foundation to intern for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Nigeria. For some, all this travelling might be scary or overwhelming, but for Pham, it’s just what she was looking for.