KOKOMO, Ind. – When Khoi Nguyen arrived in the United States, his plan was to spend one year in Kokomo as an exchange student, then move to California where he could be with other Vietnamese students while preparing for medical school.
After building a good relationship with his host family and making friends, he decided Kokomo felt like home.
“I liked the way my English was improving so quickly,” he said. “I wanted to stay here, rather than being where I would go back and forth between Vietnamese and English, kind of stuck in the middle of them. It was important to me to speak better English.”
Nguyen enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo with a pre-med plan, but after a few semesters, shifted his focus to a degree that would allow him to work right after graduating.
“The best part for me has been the quality of the education I received,” he said. “The professors are really nice. They always try to help you, and they paid attention to my grades and how I was doing in class.”
Since graduation this month, he’s been offered a job after he passes the state board tests. He plans to work for a few years before returning to IU Kokomo for a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.
“I enjoy taking care of people,” said Ngyuen. “Getting to know my patients and taking care of them gives me a sense of responsibility and purpose. It’s always good to see them getting better.”
Even though he was involved in the Cougar Choir, Nurses Bible Fellowship, and campus orientation leader, he has connected with the community by volunteering at Bridges Outreach, and serving as a youth group leader at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. Ngyuen built a “village” that offers him family-like support.
“I wanted to find productive ways to use my extra time,” he said. “It’s helped me find friends and make connections with people.”
That support has helped him grow spiritually, which he says has been an important aspect of his student experience. At home, he attended church weekly, but that was the extent of his involvement in religious activity. He found a church home in Kokomo and has been an active leader in campus ministries.
“I really think Kokomo is a strong faith community,” he said. “When I got here, I started getting more involved and I formed my religious beliefs more strongly. I live my life based on these beliefs, with my friends and family.”
Nguyen appreciates having community, with none of his family close by. His parents continue to live in Vietnam and visit once or twice a year. His two sisters attend universities in Wisconsin, about a four-hour drive from Kokomo.
His family planned to attend Commencement in May, and he hopes they will be able to come when the ceremony is rescheduled.
“We’ve become accustomed to being spread out, but eventually we plan for all of us to live here,” he said.
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.