At the age of 19, Nhi Nguyen emigrated from Vietnam to the United States with her mother. In a completely new environment and having to cope in an unfamiliar language, Nhi initially intended to earn a degree in a health science field because she thought she would have a higher chance of finding a stable job; however, her first art professor helped her believe in her skills and abilities, and inspired her to pursue art instead.
Nhi is graduating with an associate of art degree for transfer in studio art. She is transferring to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in graphic and interactive design. She also hopes to pursue a master’s degree and dreams of becoming a successful graphic designer.
“No matter what language an artist speaks, I can understand what he is trying to represent and express through his art piece,” she said. “So, art seems to have a power of speaking in a universal language, which is why I’ve been interested in art.”
Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
My name is Nhi Nguyen. I grew up in Vietnam. When I was 19 years old, my mother and I moved to the United States. I am interested in designing, crafting, and drawing. My hobbies are singing and swimming.
I have been attending Cypress College since fall 2016. I became part of the EOPS program in fall 2017 and started to work in the Career Planning Center on campus in fall 2018. As I am not a native English speaker, English is a significant challenge for me. Moreover, because of my Vietnamese accent, I also feel self-conscious and hesitant when communicating in English. However, with all the help and enthusiasm of my professors, my coworkers, and my friends at Cypress, my English has improved a lot, and I feel more confident when using English.
This is my third year at Cypress. I am working on my associate degree for transfer in studio art and will be graduating this spring. Next fall, I am transferring to California State University, Fullerton, to earn my bachelor’s degree.
Why did you choose Cypress College?
As I am looking forward to transfer to university to earn my bachelor’s degree, I chose to attend a local community college. Fortunately, I decided to go to Cypress College, which is one of best decisions I have ever made.
What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
Being an EOPS student, I have received many supports from the program such as counseling and book awards. In addition, while I am one of the student workers in the Career Planning Center on campus, I have not only earned experience and am involved in campus events, but also had opportunities to help other students and introduce them to the beneficial career counseling services offered at the center.
Even though I am interested in art, I started my first semester as a health science student, since it seemed there would be a higher chance to get a stable job with a health science degree. However, my first art professor at Cypress really inspired me. He not only taught valuable knowledge and assigned interesting projects, but also helped me believe in my art skills and ability. Hence, I chose art with a concentration in graphic design as my major.
What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am passionate about art. The first reason why I love art is that there is no right or wrong answer, so I can express myself, my feelings, and become more creative. There are meanings that can be interpreted from art elements and principles, which are “formulas” I use to tell the stories through my paintings, drawings, and designs. I also use these “formulas” to “read” and understand the story, feeling, and context of an artwork. Then, no matter what language an artist speaks, I can understand what he is trying to represent and express through his art piece. So art seems to have a power of speaking in a universal language, which is why I’ve been interested in art.
Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
I really appreciate the time I have experienced at Cypress College and I am thankful to all my passionate, incredible, and amazing professors and counselors. I would like to say thank you to my art and media art design professors: Edward Giardina, Carleton Christy, Janet Owen Driggs, Katalin Angelov, Daniel Gross, Rema Ghuloum, my EOPS counselor Alan Reza, and my supervisors Deann Burch, Belinda Allan, and Zola Aponte.
- Edward Giardina: my first art professor at Cypress College. I was inspired from his first lectures about the elements of art. He is a great professor who not only helped me with my art projects and letters of recommendation, but also gave me advice about what major I should pursue and which university I should transfer to.
- Carleton Christy: my drawing professor. I enjoyed his class a lot. He is hilarious, so I never felt stressed in his class or while talking with him. He encouraged me to do my best and allowed me to explore and use different art techniques. He taught me many new skills. He has been always willing to help me. Since I am not a native English speaker, he even helped me look up words in the dictionary when I was having trouble with English.
- Janet Owen Driggs: my art history professor. I learned a lot from her lectures and she made me love art history. One of the amazing things she taught me was to “read” an image.
- Katalin Angelov: my first digital art professor. Besides her interesting lectures, she has everything for a great professor: kindness, warmth, and understanding.
- Daniel Gross: my graphic design professor. He also works as a graphic designer, so while working on his class assignments, I earned experience and got advice that is valuable and important for my profession.
- Rema Ghuloum: my color theory professor. She has a great understanding about colors, so I learned, explored, and worked on many different projects that applied the variety of color theories, which are so amazing and valuable to my major.
- Alan Reza: my EOPS counselor for two years. Besides discussing my academic plan, he also talked about my artworks and gave me some interesting project ideas.
- Deann Burch, Belinda Allan, and Zola Aponte: my supervisors in the Career Planning Center. I always feel their kindness toward me as well as other staff. I can see their enthusiasm while instructing students and their passion for their work and the center.
What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
After graduating from Cypress College, I will be transferring to California State University, Fullerton, and working on my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in graphic and interactive design. Meanwhile, I plan to work on campus in order to improve my English communication skills as well as to help other students. I will also look for a job that is related to my major, so I can earn more work experience.
What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My biggest dream is to become a successful graphic designer. I am interested in working on logos, brand identities, layouts, and poster designs for movies, magazines, product advertisements, social issues, etc. In addition, I like creating motion graphics that provide the audience with information about a company, topic, or issue. Besides taking digital design courses, I also take other classes such as drawing, color theory, and animation to gain more knowledge and improve my art skills, as well as to obtain an ability to work with other types of art such as digital illustration and animation. The interactive design program at California State University, Fullerton, is another branch of design that I also want to pursue. Then, after getting my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I also plan to earn a Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts.
What are you most proud of?
It has been my honor to be on the Cypress College President’s Honor Roll with a GPA of 4.0. Furthermore, I am the 2019 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Fine Arts Division. I won the 2019 Sheron Huston Memorial Scholarship and the 2019 Freddie Czerniel Transfer Scholarship that was offered by the Cypress College Fine Arts Division. In addition, I am the winner of the 2019 Cypress College Holiday Card Contest. My product advertisement project that includes three posters and a motion graphic is displayed at the Students’ Show 2019 in the Cypress College Art Gallery. Also, my still life drawing and animal digital illustration were selected for the Student Exhibition in May 2018, and my ink drawing was chosen for display at the Student Exhibition in May 2017.
What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
I would like to say do your best, so you will have no regrets about anything. Also, think about your interests, strengths, and skills while choosing the major and career path that you would like to pursue. If you like and are passionate about something, you absolutely can do well at it, so believe in yourself and your abilities. Then, do not struggle with yourself because there are tons of service on campus such as counseling, financial aid, the health center, open computer lab, and tutoring that are really helpful and can help you find your solution.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am really happy that I will be graduating. I also appreciate my time at Cypress College. I have learned valuable information from various subjects and numerous practical skills. I am really thankful for the help and support from the campus services as well as the inspiration and encouragement from all my Cypress College professors.