CultureWorks graduate from Vietnam helps CW students adjust to their future home at King’s University College

ESL school
Emmy, a CultureWorks graduate, attends a King’s Mathematics and Economics Society event. Emmy is now in her second year at King’s and is a member of the society.

The challenge this day was to find a CultureWorks graduate who could help guide some current CW students on a tour of King’s University College.

Not for just a tour of bricks and mortar, but an inside look at the workings of the facility where these eight students are headed following the completion of their ELS learning.

Phuong (Emmy) Nguyen, now in her second year at King’s, was the perfect candidate.

CultureWorks Vice-Principals Janine DeForge and Stan Rath made the request. It was a new venture for the ESL school to help students feel more relaxed in their future home.

The 20-year-old from Vietnam was more than happy to help out the ESL school she graduated from two years earlier.

Emmy noticed one small challenge when the tour was underway.

There were plenty of distractions, with the current King’s students going about their daily routines. Emmy noticed that the CW students, in awe of their future surrounding, chatting often among themselves.

“Most of them are Chinese, so they have a big community here and whenever they need something, they will have someone to help, but it’s not always true,” Emmy said in an interview following the tour.

Emmy said students should grasp all the information available to them, before and during their university life.

“Even the profs can help. ‘You should take that profession instead of this profession.’ So big communication, big connections are always the best,” she said.

Emmy’s experience arriving to Canada and beginning ESL school

Emmy knows what she is talking about.

She arrived in Canada – and London, Ont., – in October, 2015. Her first days in a new country and new school were challenging, to say the least.

“Totally different. The weather, the culture, everything is different,” she said. “In the winter, I was so excited to see snow. I love every single first snow, but after that, no.”

But her new home in London and the cold – and ultimately the snow – were not her biggest challenges. Learning the English language topped the list by far.

“To me. I am so, so glad I was a CultureWorks student because – people probably don’t believe me – when I first came here, my English was roughly zero,” Emmy said.

“I didn’t know anything about English. I barely understood people. I couldn’t get what teachers said in the class. It was just so hard for me.”

For the first while, she called on her fellow students for help.

“I always had to ask my classmates what the teacher wanted. Somehow (information) from someone who also had broken English, and translated to you, was easier for me to get it. It was kind of cool.”

Janine, one of her first teachers at CultureWorks, confirmed Emmy’s difficult start. But she also saw a student who would try everything at her disposal to improve.

“She was always the person who asked a lot questions,” Janine said.

“She reached out to other students in the class which is why I think she has been so successful at King’s because she has that personality of reaching out to others, building that sense of community.”

Janine said Emmy overcame the fact that she was part of a smaller cultural community when she came to CultureWorks. 

“They were all learning the same language, so that was the bond, that was the connection. So she would help other students in the vocabulary and the grammar and other students would help her in the pronunciation or whatever her weaknesses were.”

Life after CultureWorks

Meanwhile, all the hard work at CW has paid off as Emmy is now working on her Bachelor of Management and Organizational Studies (BMOS) honours degree with a major in accounting and a minor in psychology at King’s. She is not far away as CW and King’s share some working space.

“I love everyone in CultureWorks. I don’t know whether everybody has the same feeling with me, but I still remember the last day of CultureWorks.

“I was sad. I was scared. I was nervous about leaving. It was like leaving your home and you go to a new home. You don’t know what to expect.  And every time I see a teacher from CultureWorks, I feel like someone is always here. It’s not too bad. My teacher is always here.”

And Emmy will not forget her first “funny experience” in London.

“I walk to the bus stop and there was a lady walking in the opposite direction to me. So she said ‘Good Morning’ and I was kind of surprised.  I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me for sure.”

Emmy did not respond.

“I was very surprised. So the next day when she saw me, she didn’t say Good Morning to me because I didn’t say it back to her.”

“I told her I was from a different country.”

And that would be Vietnam. She prefers the culture and the education here ahead of her home country.

“You use a real business case to solve the problem. In Vietnam, you just study theory. You study from the textbooks, but you don’t use them.

Emmy begins her Boomalang online presentation to her classmates. From Vietnam, Emmy came to Canada in October/2010 where she then joined CultureWorks for her ESL learning.

“To me, learning a new language has opened a completely new world.”

Meanwhile, the “world” she left behind includes her father, mother and younger brother. She said she would encourage her brother to come to Canada and join her. But only if he lives up to his “potential.”

And her home country is doing very well now, she said.

“It’s too new for us. It’s like we just got out of the war. My parents’ generation experienced the war. They were teenagers when the war was on. It’s still kind of new for me … I still feel the pain from the war.”

But not the initial pain from learning English.

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