As this year’s Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) for Vietnamese, one might be surprised that Quang Nghĩa’s first intellectual passion wasn’t language studies.

Instead, Nghĩa first enrolled in the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture, the flagship university for civil engineering, urban planning, fine arts, fashion design, and building interior design in Vietnam. After finishing his degree in engineering, however, he found his interest in infrastructural planning waning and sought out to find a more fulfilling career path. After some self-reflection and soul searching, he settled on pursuing a second degree in linguistics and went on to become an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) instructor at HP Academy in Ho Chi Minh City. Nghĩa taught at HP Academy for three years before arriving in the U.S. for the first time as the Vietnamese FLTA for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

According to Nghĩa, Ann Arbor feels quaint compared to the clamorous lifestyle of Vietnam’s largest metropolis. As is typical for early autumn in Michigan, Nghĩa notes that the weather has been “a bit erratic,” swinging between cold and rainy to hot and humid within the course of a single day. Nevertheless, he is enjoying the seasonality of the Midwest so far and is taken with the beautiful scenery on campus, especially as the leaves begin to change color. More than anything so far, Nghĩa is grateful for the sense of community he has found since arriving here in August. 

Since re-aligning himself with his passion for teaching languages, Nghĩa is grateful for the opportunity to spend a year teaching Vietnamese to students in the U.S. under the tutelage of Thuy-Anh T. Nguyen, the Vietnamese language instructor at U-M. He is especially interested in learning about different pedagogies for teaching Vietnamese to both non-heritage and heritage speakers. As a talented guitarist, Nghĩa also sees music as a shared language between people and an important vehicle for cultural exchange. His YouTube channel features him playing acoustic guitar covers of Vietnamese songs, which he hopes his American students will come to enjoy and appreciate as well. 

Looking ahead to the future, Nghĩa wants to keep building upon his experience as an FLTA by pursuing a master’s degree in education to bolster his career. He then plans to take his newfound knowledge back to Ho Chi Minh City, where he dreams of opening his own language center and developing a program to teach Vietnamese to foreigners living in Vietnam, in addition to continuing his career in teaching English as a Foreign Language. Most importantly, Nghĩa imagines that his time fostering intercultural connections at U-M will be a model for cross-cultural communication between Americans and Vietnamese people at his center, as a place for people from both countries and cultures to interact and understand more about each other.