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Student's passion for languages strengthened by study abroad

January 4, 2017

Caitlin Huynh visits the Claude Monet Giverny Garden in France.
Caitlin Huynh at Claude Monet's famous garden in Giverny, France

For Caitlin Huynh, of Tieu Can, Vietnam, a love for languages was born from the challenges of adapting to a new culture.

"My passion for languages came from struggling to learn English," Huynh said.

She moved from Vietnam to Fairfax, Virginia, when she was 8 years old.

"It was a difficult transition to make," Huynh said, "but I realized that the more languages I speak, the better I could connect with people."

Now a sophomore double majoring in French and international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Huynh speaks Vietnamese, English, and French. She strengthened her French skills by participating in the VT in Paris study-abroad program last summer.

During the program, Huynh took two Virginia Tech courses taught by Janell Watson, a professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Huynh also studied at the Alliance Française, an organization dedicated to sharing the French language and culture.

Outside of classes, Huynh visited museums and conversed with Parisians.

"On one occasion, I was sitting in a coffee shop, and a local man asked about a political sticker I had on the back of my laptop. We spoke for some time, in French, about differences and similarities with our countries' political systems," Huynh said. "I gained so much from that simple encounter and gained such an appreciation for the French people's willingness to hold discussions."

The Paris program, a five-week course, was a stepping stone.

Huynh has plans to return to France for a second study-abroad experience, this time for a full semester. She is in the process of applying to the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). Virginia Tech's partnership with ISEP allows students to choose from exchange opportunities at hundreds of institutions abroad.

Huynh currently serves as a peer advisor at the Global Education Office, part of Outreach and International Affairs.

"I have always wanted to study abroad, so I sought out ways to make it happen including scholarships. For some students, though, they may not realize that it is a possibility," she said.

Huynh received a Global Education scholarship to help cover the expenses of her study abroad.

"As a peer advisor I hope to encourage others to take advantage of these opportunities," she said.

Written by Alexa Johnson, a junior from Richmond, Virginia, majoring in public relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Rommelyn Conde Coffren also contributed to this story. 

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