The Road to Mount Union

April 13, 2010

Born in Hanoi, Vietnam, Ngoc Caroline Han is a junior at Mount Union College, majoring in international studies with French and media studies minors.

Han had an interest in studying abroad from a young age. Her initial interest in coming to the United States began in a sixth grade English class. Her teacher was an American, and had them all pick American names for the class. Han had watched Little House on the Prairie as a little girl and liked the character Caroline. She thought the name was not too common, so she picked it as her American name. To this day, she still uses the name.

During her high school career, she got to go to an English summer camp with American college graduate students from California. 'Interacting with these students and taking them on local sightseeing trips further sparked my interest in going to the United States,' said Han.

By the eleventh grade she learned about an exchange program that would allow her dream to happen. She learned about it through a friend who also had interest in going to the United States. After gaining support from both of her parents, she went to study abroad in a small town in Alabama.

Being a city girl, Han found it difficult at first to get used to the small southern town atmosphere, and the southern accent was hard for her to grasp at the beginning.

'I really enjoyed staying with my host family,' said Han.

While in Alabama, Han met another individual who she came to think of as her 'American mom,' Carolyn Drinkard, Han's communication teacher at ThomasvilleHigh School. 'We still stayed in touch and I came back to visit her twice since I've been to college,' Han explains.

After returning to Vietnam, Han couldn't wait to come back to the United States. She found Mount Union when looking up colleges close to the east coast of the United States. The counselor she spoke to made her feel welcome and the financial package was the best out of all of the colleges at which she had looked.

Han was very excited to get the opportunity to come back to the United States to go to college. During this time, however, it was hard to get a visa. You had to have a good reason to get one because they didn't believe you were going to come back to Vietnam.

'The first time I applied for a visa, they refused me,' said Han.

She then contacted Mount Union to see if they could help her get a visa. She applied for a second time and was refused again.

Han's close friend Carolyn Drinkard was the person who made Han's stay in America and acceptance to Mount Union possible. 'She contacted the Alabama Senator and had him call the U.S. embassy in Vietnam,' said Han. 'With her involvement in the school and the letters she wrote, the third time I applied for a visa I got it!'

During her time at Mount Union, Han has been an active member of Model United Nations. With Model UN, she got to go to conferences in St. Louis and Chicago.

'I also got to listen to the resolution from the U.S. on Iraq,' said Han. 'The U.S. knew they would get shut down on their proposal to go to war, but they went anyway. It was interesting listening to missions from the U.S. to the U.N.

Han is the vice president of the Association of International Students and a member of Student Senate. She has been writing stories for the 'Dynamo' since she was a freshman. She also reads news on the campus radio station and works in the Office of International Admission.

George and Shirley (Barrick) Weimer, active Mount Union alumni from the classes of 1954 and 1956, have also been an influential part of Han's American experience. The Weimers have acted as her community friends. Community friends are local residents who are paired with international students to welcome them to campus and help them acclimate to their new home away from home.

'They were among the kindest and most respectable people I've known who always give me support and encouragement in many ways during my time here,' Han said.

Han is very happy that the long road from Vietnam has led her to Mount Union. 'I am so fortunate to go to Mount Union and have classes with good professors and have good advice that inspires me to do things I didn't think I was capable of doing,' added Han.

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