My “Cindy” Huynh is a proud VIU alumna, focused on sharing her knowledge in English with those who would like to learn the language. Throughout her time in the United States, My has found ways to adapt to American culture while maintaining her country’s traditions through singing, dancing, and more. We asked her some questions about her Vietnamese culture and her experience at VIU. 

What made you choose to attend Virginia International University?

My bachelor’s degree was in English, and I worked for a few years as a teaching assistant. I decided to pursue a Master of Arts in TESOL degree. I wanted to pursue my dream of a career as an ESL teacher.

If we are not mistaken, you just graduated – congratulations! How does it feel to be a college graduate?

It feels great to have gotten my degree, but I do get a little bit sad thinking about all the wonderful memories I had at VIU. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and loved getting to know my classmates and the professors. They have always supported me and gave me encouragement throughout my schooling.

So, what are you doing now that you are out of school?

Currently, I am working for a private college in Falls Church, Virginia. At first, I was an ESL Assistant for the English Department, but right now I’m working in the Admissions Department, and volunteer to teach ESL in Manassas. I really enjoy teaching my students and passing on my knowledge, passing on the information I’ve gained, to these learners. The feeling of being able to provide positive feedback to them when they come up to me with questions about grammar or writing is wonderful. You can tell that they are very eager to learn.

During your time at VIU, you participated in Ms. VIU 2015. How would you describe that experience?

It could be said that it helped me improve upon myself. It was a huge confidence booster for me. I didn’t plan on entering the competition originally, but I thought it would be a good experience for me to join overall, so that’s why I decided to participate. It was a great chance to meet and get to know other students from different departments at VIU. Another opportunity we had to share our cultures at VIU that I participated in was International Day. We put on traditional clothing from our countries and presented or performed a piece of traditional culture. I sang during my performance.

When did you start singing and dancing?

Oh, wow! It’s been a long time. Since I was very small – maybe about 20 years ago.

Do you perform often?

Yes. When I lived in my country, I performed through all of my education – elementary school, middle and high school, even college. Beyond that, in the United States, I perform locally. The events I perform at in the states are often arranged by the Vietnamese community in Fairfax and celebrated holidays like the Lunar New Year, Christmas, or any special event.

We’ll have to catch an event. What has been one of your most favorite singing and dancing performances in your life so far?

I have so many memories that stick out, but I would have to say the 2015 Lunar New Year was one of my favorites. They had traditional food and clothing; there was singing and dancing. There was also a karaoke contest. So, I joined the contest and ended up winning first prize! I won a trophy.

Do you ever see yourself singing and dancing as a full-time career?

Absolutely! That’s my wish. I have a dream to be a full-time, professional singer. I know that I still have to study and do all my work now that I’m older, but I can still enjoy singing on my own time and see if it goes anywhere.

How do you balance your work, volunteering, and hobbies all at once?

I know it’s hard to balance your time between work and everything else, but you always make time for what you love to do. For example, I always make time for music by listening to it in the car on the way to work and singing along. Music for me is very important. I feel off and bored if I skip a day of listening to it.

So, you obviously have been performing a lot of traditional pieces within the Vietnamese community – how do you practice your culture and traditions in your everyday life?

I practice my culture by using the language every day (of course), as well as replicating traditional dishes in my home. Every day I cook Vietnamese food. It’s a good way to keep a hold of your culture in America. Living in the United States, we have many choices to eat all the time, but to me, Vietnamese food is still number one.

I also play a traditional Vietnamese instrument called a đàn tranh. The đàn tranh is a very long zither instrument with sixteen strings. For the last two years or so, I have been practicing my instrument after my job, volunteering, and doing the housework. I know at least 10 songs right now by memory, and I’m still learning! I haven’t had the chance to perform with the đàn tranh, however I would love the opportunity.

We have one more question for you: what is your advice for people who want to follow their own dreams?

My only advice would be to stay confident. I myself, sometimes, am not confident, because I’m afraid that someone might be better than me. You have to build your confidence, though. That’s why I signed up to participate in Ms. VIU. It helped me overcome my fears and believe more in myself. You only know your strength and your abilities if you try the task at hand. If you aren’t successful, at least you tried and learned something about yourself in the process.