May is Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American Heritage Month. Throughout the month, The Daily will highlight members of the university community who are of Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American heritage to celebrate their accomplishments as members of the campus community and shed light on their experiences at CWRU.
When Jeremy Nguyen came to Case Western Reserve, he knew he wanted to study French, biology and public health, and hoped he’d have the chance to study abroad. After four years at the university and a semester at Maastricht University’s Public Health and Medicine program in the Netherlands, Nguyen has accomplished it all—and he credits his cultural heritage for motivating his academic pursuits.
“I initially chose to take French in sixth grade because of its aural beauty and its cultural influence on Vietnam,” said Nguyen, whose family hails from the country. “Having been immersed in many different cultures, I understand how every individual is shaped by their cultural identity and background.”
Nguyen is set to graduate this weekend with degrees in French and biology, both of which he plans to use along with his love for languages as he pursues his next step: a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in epidemiology. In his graduate program at University at Buffalo, he wants to gain a better understanding of population health and conduct research on causes and prevention of diseases while incorporating his Vietnamese heritage.
“I hope to use [my] cultural competency in a career in medicine to make healthcare more personalized and accessible,” he explained. Part of his drive in this was a feeling growing up that people didn’t know or understand much about Vietnam—and, as a result, it was difficult to relate on topics such as health.
“Today, I’ve become very proud of my culture and traditions,” Nguyen said. “I hope by sharing with others some of my favorite parts of my culture, people can learn a little about what I love about my heritage.”
One of Nguyen’s favorite aspects of his culture is seeing his family at the death anniversary ceremonies (Đám Giỗ) of his family members. Despite the name, it’s generally a joyous atmosphere, he explained, especially as his family gathers to share a meal with their ancestors.
Nguyen has also found ways to share his culture with his friends at Case Western Reserve through food. He’s introduced them to phở, a famous noodle soup dish, by visiting local restaurants, and when his mother sent him mooncakes (bánh trung thu), he shared them with his roomates during the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tết trung thu).
“To me, Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American Heritage Month means being able to celebrate the history of APIDAA contributions to the United States, while also being able to appreciate the ethnic diversity among the APIDAA community,” Nguyen said.
In his time at Case Western Reserve, Nguyen has volunteered with immigrant and refugee communities around Cleveland. He’s also spent the last two years studying proteins in bone cells at a research lab in the School of Medicine.