Hao Hoang’s Adventures in America

— Guest Speaker at Hello! English Club: Andrew (Hao Hoang) —

Andrew (Hao Hoang) is from Nghe An, a province in Central Vietnam. He’s 28 years old and spent four years in America working and studying. He went to Londenwood University in Missouri and then worked for Verizon Telecommunications. He spoke at Hello! English Club in April. He shared his adventures as a Vietnamese person living abroad and how he adapted to life in a foreign country.

 In this post you’ll learn about the life of a Vietnamese person in America, working at a big company and what it’s really like to speak English with Americans. 

— Speaking English with Americans —

Many of the foreigners that you speak English with in Vietnam (including foreign English teachers) speak slower to you. They know that English isn’t your first language and they want you to easily understand them. They will use easy and small words. This isn’t how people speak English in America. One of the things that surprised Andrew the most about America was how people speak English. People speak really fast! They use a lot of big and complicated words. It’s difficult to understand them. They get annoyed if they have to repeat themselves and you don’t understand them.  To get better at practical English, he watched a lot of English movies and talked with a lot of Americans. People don’t always come back to Vietnam with excellent English. It depends on that person’s personality. You need to be able to socialize with others to get better at conversational English. 

— College Life —

It took him a year to find a scholarship to a college in America. He didn’t give up and kept working towards his goal. When choosing a college to apply to, Andrew recommends finding the right one for you. Find a college that isn’t too high level or too low level. When you go to college in America, you will probably have classes 2-3 days per week (usually they are 2 hour classes).  You will have a lot of homework and a lot of classwork to do online. Nobody will tell you what to do. You have to be able to learn independently.  The professors in America are more friendly than the professors in Vietnam. If they are not sure about an answer, they will research it and get back to you. International students are afraid of making mistakes when asking questions in the classroom with Americans. Don’t be shy. The more you ask questions, the more self-confidence you will get.

Here some things to consider when looking for a scholarship in America. You should have a good GPA in Vietnam. Your IELTS/TOEFL score should be 7.0 or higher (not 6.5!). You will have a Skype interview with a representative from the college. They want to see how confident you are and determine if you can go to their college and graduate.

— Working at a Big Company in America —

Finding a job in America is really tough. Some of the reasons why companies don’t want to hire you are that you’re not from America, you don’t have any experience, English is not your first language and your visa status. Andrew was hired by Verizon. They’re one of the biggest telecommunications companies in America. He started working in the Customer Service department and then moved to the Sales Department.

He would spend a lot of time on the phone at work. It was hard for him to understand the different accents and ways Americans speak who are from different parts of America (or people from other countries who speak English). He started to listen more carefully when people spoke to him. He was worried that he couldn’t understand customers. He had to get better at listening. After about a month with some effort and some coaching from his boss, he got better

Andrew said that he was able to save money while working in America. The cost of living there can be expensive. It depends on where you live and your quality of life. He was single, didn’t have a mortgage or a car payment. He did have to pay a lot in taxes (around 25% of his salary). He had a comfortable and enjoyable life in America while working for Verizon.

— Andrew’s Life in America —

 Before going to America, traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia helped to prepare him for life in America. He has an outgoing personality and can quickly adapt to different living situations.  Unlike most students who study abroad, he didn’t experience culture shock. He was part of two communities at the same time. First, the local community living in America who speak English. Second, the student community who either speak English as a second language or as a first language. In the local community, Americans don’t care if you don’t understand them. It’s hard for them explain something to you if you don’t understand them (not everyone is a teacher!). They will just repeat the same thing (sometimes loudly). In the student community, it’s easy to make friends. There are people from many different countries and everyone wants to get to know each other.

Andrew didn’t get culture shock, but he did get “food shock”. The way that people eat in America surprised him. At his college there was a cafeteria. He didn’t like the food and got stomachaches for the first two weeks. Americans eat a lot of raw or undercooked vegetables. He was used to Vietnamese style vegetables. He had to go 30 minutes to get Vietnamese food. Asian food (including Vietnamese food) in American can be expensive. He even had dreams about eating Vietnamese food in Vietnam!

While in America, Andrew did some traveling. America is a big place! One state is bigger than all of Vietnam. Traveling in America was fascinating. His favorite place in America is New York City. People speak many different languages and people from all over the world live there. There are many different groups of people and that creates a dynamic and fun environment.

What should you do when you start to miss Vietnam? Andrew told himself that someday he will go back to Vietnam. He also made friends and would go out with them often. Andrew mentally prepared himself to be away from his home country for a while. He knew that he made a sacrifice by being away from his family and friends. He knew there would be a reward for his sacrifice.

Andrew’s younger brother got married and his Mom wanted him to come back to Vietnam. He returned to Vietnam and lives in Vinh City. He is the co-founder of Rephoto Solutions, a company which services customers who need photos edited or retouched.  If you are thinking of going to another country, Andrew has some advice for you. Give yourself a goal and work everyday to accomplish that goal. When you are in another country, be confident, go out and talk to people and don’t be afraid to make mistakes in the classroom.  🙂

Want to learn more about what it’s like to live in another country? Read one of these.

Hello! English Club meets every Tuesday morning at Cafe Sonata.