2017-08-16 / Featured / News

Clover Hill grad heads to Vietnam on scholarship


Clover Hill graduate Theresa Dinh will spend a year in Vietnam studying human trafficking and other topics on a $20,000 Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program. 
ASH DANIEL Clover Hill graduate Theresa Dinh will spend a year in Vietnam studying human trafficking and other topics on a $20,000 Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program. ASH DANIEL At a time when most of her classmates were attending Clover Hill High football games, Theresa Dinh could usually be found at home, working on her studies.

“The majority of the time [she would] stay in and do homework that wasn’t due until the next week,” says longtime friend Sabreen Hamad. “She’s probably the hardest-working person I’ve ever met.”

Given her dedication, perhaps it’s no surprise Dinh was recently awarded a Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program. The scholarship helps undergrads study less common languages in regions of the world that are critical to American interests.

Next month, the 20-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student will head to Vietnam to spend a year studying human trafficking and other topics at Hoa Sen University and in the State University of New York-Brockport’s Danang program. “It was a life-changing moment when I saw the [scholarship] email,” says Dinh, who moved to Chester from New York at the age of 10. “There was no way that I could afford to spend a year in Vietnam on my own.”

Dinh’s parents are Vietnamese, and came to America as refugees after the Vietnam War. Dinh’s late father fought in the South Vietnamese Army and fled the communist country by boat in the 1980s. After Dinh’s father established himself in America, Dinh’s mother immigrated here. Dinh was born in the United States but accompanied her parents on two trips back to Vietnam as a child, which sparked her interest in learning more about the country.

“I remember really loving the travel. I remember being on the airplane, seeing people who looked like me, but speaking a different language,” Dinh says. Ever since, she’s wanted to travel and study other cultures. “It’s something that stimulated me intellectually, and something that I really enjoyed doing.”

A graduate of the Mathematics and Science High School at Clover Hill, Dinh credits the school with motivating her to pursue her goals.

“It really influenced my work ethic,” says Dinh of her high school. “My teachers there were really great, and they taught me the importance of reaching out for opportunities.”

When it came time for college, Dinh chose VCU for its proximity to her family, its world studies program and the school’s prioritization of diversity. Majoring in international studies with a concentration in world cinema and a minor in Asian and Chinese studies, Dinh wants to learn more about her own heritage and the region of the world her family hails from.

The Boren Scholarship will give Dinh $20,000 toward the cost of covering classes, tuition and housing while she’s in Vietnam. As part of the award, Dinh will have to work for the U.S. government for a year in a position connected to national security after graduating.

“Theresa is a very bright student, she’s exceptionally well-read and curious, and open to exploring new possibilities in global issues,” says Rachel Gable, a global education professor at VCU. “She’s passionate about issues that she cares about, such as human trafficking and global migration. She’s supportive of her peers and wants to help others understand complex problems that affect large populations.”

Already, Dinh is staking out territory in the world of international relations. This summer, she participated in the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program in Washington, D.C., taking classes for six weeks at Howard University.

Dinh says she previously wanted to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development to prevent human trafficking, but after attending the Rangel program, she says she now sees a variety of options available to her.

Hamad, Dinh’s friend since they were in sixth grade together at Matoaca Middle, says Dinh is one of the nicest people she’s ever met.

“She worked so hard on that application to get in. Then when she got in, she was so excited about it,” Hamad says. “I know she wants to do big things in her field.” ¦

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