Community Involvement

For those who interested in providing social services while studying at IU, there are numerous chances for you to do so. Following the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Bloomington has a total of 1,082 nonprofit organizations (NGOs) in 2001 with a large percentage of arts and culture nonprofits. These NGOs focus mainly on human services and religious development. Living in a vibrant Bloomington community where there is large number of NGOs, the demand for your help and involvement is huge. While nonprofits in Bloomington are actively seeking for your help, IU also has lots of initiatives to connect you with the local community.

Asian Center organizes monthly meeting at the center to connect local organizations with students who wants to become a volunteer/intern for these organizations. Last time when I attended the meeting, there were representatives from the United Way of Monroe County, the Middle Way House, Stone Belt, Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington, Interfaith Winter Shelter. These organizations came to introduce their organizations’ programs and recruit volunteers/ interns to work for their programs. The purpose of the monthly meeting is also to discuss ways you as well as student organization group can reach out to the community. There are various funding options for you and the student groups to do these kinds of activities. Besides, IU Center for Student Leadership Development also has similar programs to enhance the connection between IU students and community organizations.

Getting involved outside of the classroom not only supplements your traditional education, but also helps to prepare you for life after graduation. You certainly will get lots of real-life opportunities while you prove your responsible engagement with the local community in which you live. And very important, you will have lots of fun joining in these community activities 🙂


Gronbjerg, Kristen  and Tennen, Patricia, Bloomington Nonprofit Dimensions, (2005),

Class discussion and the courage to speak up…

Speaking up in class discussions is somehow challenging for some people especially for international students. Being an international student, I personally feel this pain and I think some other foreign students might share the same feeling. Why? Among the class of all American students, I am the only one international student. What if I say something wrong? What if the professor does not understand my English and ask me to explain my opinions again? What if my classmates judge my answer when they may know the topic better than me given their longer working experiences? I need a little more time to organize my ideas before giving the valid answer, but when I am ready to answer, other students have already answered…I had these thoughts in the first few weeks of transition to the master program at IU. Should I continue staying on the safe side- saying nothing even though I might have lots of points in my mind 🙂 Here is what I think after several first weeks of  “adaptation” 😉

Very often, we don’t speak up because we worry of being judged. But actually, there is nothing wrong with our point of view. The fact that you are an international student make you very unique…You might see problems from different prospectives and people really expect you to share your own thoughts no mater what. Also, you never know it could be the right answer. As long as you tried, the answer might be right. We all come to class to learn in the end. We learn from professors and we learn from each other. Most important, we are all equal and we are all IU student no matter where we are from.  And active participation in class help yourself learn a lot too. So, it is totally fine if you don’t think you want to contribute your ideas when you are not ready enough. For those who want to push yourself a little bit in class discussions, please feel free to speak up 🙂



Diversity at IU

We can see, feel and taste the diversity whenever we come to any IU campus. With students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries, IU has a rich culture with very diverse ethnicities. Diversity promotion is a big part of the strategy to internationalize IU.

The office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (DEMA) is dedicated promote diversity at IU. Diversity promotion efforts focus on developing diverse array of programs, services, and activities that help to “promote excellence through diversity, equity, and culture at Indiana University”.

Below you would find the link of Diversity resources at IU Bloomington.

Each center provides its own services to support students in every aspect. Know that they are always there to support you and your academic growth.  It is awesome to be part of a diverse campus where you know the exchange of ideas and experiences is fully encouraged. These certainly influence our academic and campus life in a positive way.


Do you consider joining a student organization at IU?

Knowing that IU is a very big university, I was still very surprised to find out IU offers more than 750 student organizations. Can you believe it? 750 student organizations—nearly 1000 options to choose from! These student organizations all founded and led by students. Each student organization works in a different areas but their common goal is to connect those who of the same interests for experience sharing and mutual development. On a campus of 40,000 students, involving in a student organization is a great way to feel connected and improve yourself in multiple ways. And yes, like IU, these organizations are very diverse. Their activities are categorized into 15 groups including:

  • Academic and Professional
  • Advocacy and Political
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Environmental
  • Fraternity and Sorority
  • Governance
  • Graduate
  • Honorary
  • International & Multi-Cultural
  • Religious & Spiritual
  • Social
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Service and Philanthropy

So why joining in a student organization matters? Here are the analyses by IU Student Life and Learning Center:

  • Joining in a student organization provides students with real-life opportunities to practice problem solving, teamwork, ethical decision-making, and responsible engagement with the local and global communities in which they live.
  •  Participating in a student organization can help you gain experience in a particular field of interest, find an outlet for recreation, or learn about something completely new to you.
  • Getting involved outside of the classroom not only supplements your traditional education, but also helps to prepare you for life after graduation.
  • Joining an organization will enhance your college experience.

Student organizations have their own bank account provided by IU and they can request a specialized office for meetings or group activities. IU also has lots of support services for student organizations especially when they want to organize events. Those services include venue, security, stage light, projectors…Almost everything you need to organize an event is supported by IU as long as your student organization hosts the event. Every year, Office of International Students (OIS), Asian Center, International Center, etc organize programs like IU World Fair, Mr & Ms. Asia…to connect these student organizations together. Those are great events that student organizations gather to do cultural exhibitions or cook their traditional food to offer to visitors. I attend these events every year and they are all GREAT!!! You should DEFINITELY not miss these events.

For those who are interested in establishing your own student organization, that is easy! IU encourages you to do that! All you need to do is following the instructions given by Student Life and Learning Center. Regarding the funding for student organizations, IU has its own grants targeted specifically to student organizations. Other than the funding from IU, you can also look for funding from other sources like banks, community organizations, foundations based in Bloomington. For instance, Chase Bank provides us (the Vietnamese Student Association) funding annually to organize Lunar New Year (we call it “Tet”). As long as you want to get involved, there are unlimited resources around for you to mobilize and support your group. Application procedure to get funding is very convenient and easy: You need to submit a proposal and a financial budget for your group activities (please make sure to submit at least 03-04 months before the date of the event). The grant officer will review your proposal and make decision. Very often you will get the grant, as IU wants to spend money on you and your group’s development

For further information about student organizations, here is the link:


Adjust yourself to a New Culture

Getting admission from IU and moving to IU for your selected program is a great journey ever for any international student- I am not an exception ☺ Hurayyyyyyyyyyyyy, the competitive application process finally ends! Bloomington here I come! IU here I come ☺ That’s SO VERY exiting! To make your IU experiences more rewarding, I would bring about some issues of culture shock to your attention – international students.

From my personal experiences, I don’t meet with culture shock socially as everyone respects who I am and where I am from. I am very happy to be a part of a diverse IU community where students come from all 50 states and more than 130 countries. IU is a culturally rich and ethnically diverse campus. However, I was shocked in the first few days attending classes in the first school week and I would love to share some of these experiences with international students.

The first challenge is the language barrier. No matter how good your English is, you might find it very hard to fully catch up what the professor lectures in class in the first few days/weeks. You are also given tons of homework, assignments, readings that are all in English while your native language is not English. Lame! If only all is written in your native language, life would be so much easier ☺ But don’t worry too much about it. Part of the experience in IU is for you to improve your English. What an incredible opportunity! So, just take it easy…think of it this way: when you comeback to your home country, everyone will admire your improved English 😉

Second, the class is so interactive, especially between professors and students. While one-way lecture style is still popular in some Asian countries, I believe many Asian students including me are not well trained to actively engage in class discussions. I have the ideas, they are very clear and well structured…But those ideas are just all in my mind and I don’t feel comfortable speaking up. This is really frustrating!!! And, if you are ever in this situation, just please don’t push yourself too hard… Just be nice to yourself, naturally you will learn how to engage effectively in the lecture.

Third, the lecture contents for some classes are very “American”. For instance; one of the lectures for my nonprofit management class is about American election and its effects on NGOs. I have some ideas about American election, but I am sure I am way behind American students as it comes to this topic. Also, have you ever feel dumb when the whole class laughs at the professors’ joke but you don’t know what’s going on? I had that experiences several times ☺ But, you certainly can ask the Professor about the joke after class if you really want to know what it is about…And aren’t the “American based” lectures also helpful for us to learn more about America? ☺

Only several personal experiences for sharing, but I am sure you will do great. IU offers so many excellent student support services that are there to help you through all the adaptation stages. Just accept the differences, have an open mind and adjust yourself to adapt with the new environment. These will help to make IU an incredible home away from home. Below you would find very helpful advice from IU Office of International Services:

Ways to Minimize the Impact of Culture Shock:
• Look for logical reasons for things in the host culture that seem different. Relax your grip on your own culture.
• Resist “looking down on” or making jokes and comments about the host culture. Avoid others who take part in such derogatory remarks.
• Talk about your feelings with a sympathetic and understanding friend or see a Foreign Student Advisor in the Office of International Services to talk about your feelings.
• When you hear yourself making negative judgments or generalizations, stop and try to view the situation objectively—without value judgments.
• Take care of your physical health. Eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, and, most importantly, get some exercise every day (take a regular walk if nothing else).

Deena R. Levine and Mara B. Adelman, Office of International Service, accessed 12/2012

Networking and the courage to say “Hi”

Everyone knows the core principle of networking ☺ I think it basically means we make efforts to broaden our relations…Why? Coz relation is extremely important to our personal growth and professional development. There are different kinds of networking namely business networking, social networking… I want to mention about social networking under IU context. So how do we do networking? For me it starts with the courage to say “Hi”…

The hardest part to start a conversation with a stranger is to “break the ice” or “ice breaking”. This sounds very simple but it is not so easy. Why saying “hi” first? The “stranger” is certainly strange. He/she is so different from us…There might be no connection between us and “the stranger”…He/she might prefer to be alone…He/she might not be interested in talking to us …A bunch of “fair” reasons keep us silent and act as a stranger too. But…very often when I take the initiative to say “Hi” first, people open up immediately and we continue with very interesting conversations. These conversations provide me lots of good information about new school programs, community involvement activities, funding opportunities…I am here today to write this blog about networking thanks to a friend I met at the Graduate Lounge over lunch. That’s gives me the chance to meet with 11 awesome emissaries and we have so much fun working together…

We can say “Hi” creatively too. The most common I use are Heya, Halo and Hola. You could look up all kinds of foreign ways of saying hello and memorize them to impress your friends. I also see recommendations from another blogger who says if you’re going for humor, you can use famous lines from movies or characters. From Mickey Mouse Club, “Howdy, Howdy, Howdy” from Toy Story, and “Hiya Pal” from Mickey Mouse himself 🙂 There are millions of ways to say Hi starting with the basic ‘hey’ and ‘what’s up’. What are your ways of greeting people? ☺

I also strongly recommend joining the activities of students’ associations at IU if you want to broaden your network. Do you know that IU has more than 750 student organizations all founded and led by students? Those organizations gather regularly to explore professional interests, hobbies, sports and recreation, academics, religion, politics… In Vietnam we have a saying “you are rich because you have friends” and I hope you are always very rich ☺

What to do while waiting on the admission decision?

So, you clicked the “Submit” button for your online application. You mailed all your application documents to the mailing address as required. You have done all necessary stuffs to complete your application. Congrats!!! Now all you have to do is to wait on the admission result. It does not sound fun at all 😉 I would say the worst thing to do in this case is to count every day and wait. The admission board holds the absolute power on the admission decision and…what will be will be 🙂 It might probably be better and healthier if you temporarily forget the application decision in a while and give yourself sometime to relax.

Also, while keeping your hope high for the application result, it is important to prepare yourself for the rejection decision from the board. I used to have a real hard time dealing with the rejection letter. I did not know how to handle it since I firmly believed that I had a great chance to get in the program. I was very sad, disappointed and discouraged…After all, I realized that I should prepare myself to be rejected from the first moment I decided to apply for the program. It is ok to be rejected and it is always important to move on after all. The possibility to get the admission or rejection letter is always 50/50. So, what to do while waiting on the admission result? Relax, enjoy yourself and treat yourself very nice since you deserve it.

Application for graduate school admission checklist

Each graduate program has different admission requirements. General requirements for graduate school admission often includes the follows:
1. GRE
2. Statement of Purpose
3. Resume
4. Letter of Recommendations.
5. Supporting documents (official transcripts, …)

For School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) where I am pursuing the Master of Public Affairs, below is the admission checklist for your reference.

Application Checklist:
1. Online Indiana University Graduate Application (eApp) and application fee ($55, $65 for international students).
2. One official transcript – from each college attended, regardless of if degree was conferred. (If you attended Indiana University, you need not submit a transcript)
3. Three letters of recommendation – preferably from faculty members.
4. GRE or GMAT scores. Official scores should be sent directly from ETS
5. TOEFL or IELTS scores – for international students. Official scores should be sent directly from ETS. SPEA baseline scores for admission consideration are 96 (TOEFL) and 7.0 (IELTS).
a. If you have a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution, this requirement is waived.
6. Personal Statement:  Describe your most important accomplishments and how they prepared you for graduate study at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Outline carefully your current goals and professional plans. Explain your reasons for selecting the School of Public and Environmental Affairs
7. Resume or CV

Each part of application checklist has the same weight in defining your eligibility for the program. For my personal case, I put special focus on my personal statement which clearly states what I can contribute for the society given the opportunity to pursue the program.

For international students, the admission process often takes a little longer as you need to prepare for the visa application process upon getting admission from your program (note that the application process starts earlier for international students…You have a different application deadline). Once you are admitted from the graduate program, the Office of International Studies (OIS) will send an official invitation letter and necessary documents for you to apply for student visa. This is another step to take since you need to live up all the requirements of the local US embassy to obtain a student visa. Depending on your case, you will be granted an appropriate visa like F1, J1. And then, off you go …Get ready to exploit all the best IU offers to you 🙂

It’s summer time :)

When the spring semester ends, all students get so exited about the upcoming summer which is incredibly awesome… no class, no assignment, no deadlines…yayyyyyy… On the last day of the class, we ask each other “What gonna you do in the summer”. It is fascinating to hear my classmates’ plan with innumerable attractive destinations: Japan, Europe, DC, Texas, Boston, New York…Everyone has their own summer plan and for me, “I take internship in an organization in California”…Two great things in one summer: California + Internship. California offers the amazing weather (AC is definitely not needed) with numerous landmarks to explore…San Jose, San Mateo, Monterey, Saratoga, San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas…I spend every single weekend to travel to a new place and meet with many great friends. I also join to various community activities, visit temples and practice Zen…Trying new things, seeing new places…are definitely the key to refresh anyone (including me) after a heavy semester at school.

Since my concentration at school is Nonprofit Management + International Development, working fulltime at the nonprofit organization offers me the practical training for my career in the nonprofit sector. I work with communication and fundraising department. My main assignments are to raise funds for development projects in Vietnam. Through the internship, I am aware of the significance of individual givings in the US and deeply acknowledge the importance of individual relationships as the key for fundraising success. Given the American cultural context, lots of typical practices in the nonprofit area are approached and they give me a comparative view of the sector between the US and Vietnam. My colleagues especially the executive directors are the great sources of knowledge and information sharing. Life is just amazing when we throw us out there, broaden our contacts, make friends and most important, have fun! And the organization that we do internship always has high potentials to offer us a job upon the graduation. Overall, a well planned summer will be a great summer 🙂