SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 27, 2019) – A chance encounter at a hospitality conference led to an opportunity to visit the United States for students Nhat Linh Le Hoang and Phu’o’ng Hà Nguyễn Duyên.
The two were attending a hospitality conference in Vietnam last year when they received an invitation to visit USF Sarasota-Manatee from Cihan Cobanoglu, PhD, coordinator of international programs in the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership (CHTL) and director of the college’s M3 Center for hospitality and tourism research.
“Last year, Hoa Sen University hosted the Global Conference on Hospitality, Tourism and Business Research (GLOSEARCH) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. During this conference, Linh and Duyên volunteered and did an excellent job,” Cobanoglu said. “I invited them to join the M3 Center for a month and provided them with a personal scholarship in the form of a free accommodations. The amazing thing about their visit was that our students learned from them as much as they learned from the students and professors.”
The seniors at Hoa Sen University arrived a month ago and are completing studies in promotions management, introduction to hospitality and tourism, human resources and sales and marketing. A scholarship enabled them to travel and study here.
“It was really insightful to have them in class,” said associate business professor Kelly Cowart, PhD, who met the students during her promotions management class. “We learned almost as much from them as they learned from us.
“They were very participatory and we learned a great deal about Vietnamese culture. They were a definite asset to the class,” she said. “Cultural exchanges like this are important, not only for the visiting students, but also for the students already here.”
Linh and Duyên consider the visit an opportunity to grow academically while glimpsing life a world away from their hometown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city with a population of 8 million.
“I think the first thing I noticed was the environment,” Linh, 22, a restaurant and food service management major, said. “Ho Chi Minh City is very busy. We have a lot of people in a small space. Here, it’s open and spread out, and you see a lot of different cultures.”
Duyên, 22, who goes by “Rosie,” said she’s making her first trip to the United States while Linh is returning a second time after attending her brother’s graduation from San Jose State University in California in 2015.
“People are very friendly here and I’ve noticed that they are always willing to help us,” the hotel management student said.
The two are staying at a nearby condominium while completing their studies. So far, they’ve visited Sarasota, Siesta Key and other beach towns. On Saturday, they’re heading to Walt Disney World before they leave on Sunday.
In Vietnam, they hope to continue their hospitality studies. Linh wants to pursue a doctorate. Rosie said she intends to work at a resort hotel for a year before she returns to college to seek a master’s degree. They say they’re enjoying the USFSM campus.
“We love the education we’re receiving here,” Linh said. “I feel like we have an opportunity to study at our own pace.”
“I’ll miss the environment here,” Rosie said. “I like the campus and the people.”
For more information about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit usfsm.edu.