Do You Know Who You Are?

By Ha Nguyen, Development and Communications Associate
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD staff

As 2017 starts to wrap up and give way to 2018, we begin to reflect back on how our life has progressed throughout the year. It is essential to not just dwell on mistakes that you have made along the way. It is also about rejoicing for what you have accomplished and drawing lessons on what disappointed you. 2017 has been a roller coaster for me, but I would not take it any other way.

Hello everyone, my name is Ha Nguyen, and you might remember me from last year as the summer intern assisting Virginia staff with the inaugural summer program there. Today, I want to tell you the story of how I get to where I am today as AALEAD’s Development and Communications Associate.

After my internship with AALEAD, I returned to my senior year at GMU to continue pursuing my degree in Global Affairs and International Relations. The nature of my study geared me towards participating in a lot of scholarly work and political advocacy. I had the opportunity to dive further into the academic sector through the- Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) and was able to conduct my original research on governmental policy affecting private tutoring activities in Vietnam. You can check out my OSCAR blog post where I talked more about what I learned from being “a scholar” as a student.

Another experience that truly shaped me into who I am today was my internship with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia at his Vienna state office. I was able to refine my tact, attention to details, and professionalism substantially under the steady leadership of the staffs working there and also through constant interaction with Virginia constituents. Additionally, thanks to the Northern Virginia Educating Youth through Employment (EYE) program, I also spent my 2017 summer doing political advocacy with labor unions and canvassing with grassroots campaigns. It was not an easy task, but I was able to learn firsthand about the significant importance of story-telling in ensuring that your representatives are listening to your voices.

Walking away from my AALEAD internship then, I ended my last reflection blog post with the great quote of Vernon Howard: “Always walk through life as if you have something to learn, and you will.” And I did! I wholehearted embodied this mindset into every single activity I came across or was involved in throughout my undergraduate career. I always attempt to reflect on what I have learned from each experience and figure out how to articulate those reflections coherently and eloquently. Just like solving a 1000+ piece puzzle, these seemingly random experiences have come together and given me the necessary tools to venture out to “the real world”, and led me to where I am today.

There were often times when I felt utterly lost as I could not fathom the uncertainties of my future past graduation; nevertheless, I know that I still have a stable support system from my family, my mentors, and my closest friends to rely upon. Without their tireless encouragement and guidance, I definitely would not feel brave enough to close my eyes and leap into the unknown with all my might!

Image may contain: 12 people, people smiling, people standing, beard, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: 21 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor


In the movie blockbuster “Moana,” there was this moment when the titular character tearfully begged the ocean that it was a mistake to choose her to embark on this adventure. Her confidence was at rock bottom, and she ceded defeat. But remember, when you ever find yourself hitting rock bottom, the only way to go is up! (Yes, I am a filmophile, totally paraphrasing Buster from the movie Sing). So prompted by the spirit of her grandmother’s question – “Do you know who you are?”, Moana reflected on who she was – “I am everything I’ve learned and more […], and the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me!” She then went on to become the heroine of her movie, finish her journey and save the world!

I cannot deny my sheer excitement upon receiving that email in my inbox announcing that I will be rejoining the AALEAD family in a full-time role this time. It was a slow-mo reenactment of that moment when Moana belted out “I am Moana!” in the song, but in this case, it is more of “I am an AALEADer (again)!” And even though I understand that the responsibilities I will be holding are not effortless to fulfill, that there is a lot of knowledge I need to acquire, at least I do know that I will be able to find the help I need to finish them strong

If you are interested in the work that AALEAD does, consider checking our Internship opportunities or Donate to support our cause!

Thank you for listening to my story, and onwards to 2018 we go!

Email Newsletters with VerticalResponse