Home: Hanoi, Vietnam
Major: Economics, with a minor in Government
Editor's note: Check back in early October, as we begin to profile members of the Class of 2007!
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
My high school classmate in Vietnam, Haianh '04, told me that she found this great small liberal arts college called Bowdoin. Before I had the chance to apply, I got a scholarship to study for two years at A-level in the United Kingdom, so I missed going to Bowdoin. After finishing A-level, my next logical step was to go to the London School of Economics. However, after I attended some lectures at LSE in my senior year, I did not like the 400+ students-per-class size and the fact that the school had no campus. I talked to Haianh and decided that Bowdoin, with its small class size and intensive interaction among students and faculty, was definitely what I was looking for.
Why did you choose your major?
My mother, my role model, is a commercial banker, so I grew up thinking I would eventually be like her. When I was in England, I chose to major in Economics, Law, Accounting and Math. So when I moved to Bowdoin, I naturally majored in Economics, and minored in Government. I think economics and government are very closely related to each other, and being able to think critically from both perspectives definitely gives you an edge.
What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
In my first year, I took Economics 208, "The Economic History of American Enterprises," with Professor Zorina Khan. In the very first lecture, she spelled out all her requirements and expectations of the course — it sounded unbelievably hard to me at the time. I saw some students walking out of the class, and wondered if I should stay. But I did, and Prof. Khan taught us an intensive and thorough history of how America grew to become the world's biggest economy. We learned how smart pro-business policies stimulated entrepreneurship, and the wave of business consolidation created huge conglomerates, and how their subsequent break-up impacted the economy. It was amazing because I felt that much of what I learned could be applied to Vietnam's economic model. It is like traveling through time — learning how the industrial revolution worked here, how the best practice was applied here, and then being able to travel to lesser-developed countries to integrate some of that knowledge.
Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
I did not do an independent research at Bowdoin but I did one while studying away at American University. My topic was on the controversy of the impact of World Bank's Structural Adjustment Loans on developing economies. It was a great experience since I could visit the World Bank, and several people at the Bank were very willing to provide feedback and data to my study.
Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I did the [former] Colby-Bates-Bowdoin consortium program in London, and the Washington semester at American University focusing on economic policy. The CBB experience was great fun — after all, I was going back to London. But I absolutely loved the Washington semester. We had only a couple of classes, two days of doing an internship, and all the rest was spent on visiting think tanks (Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution, for example), World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, the Federal Reserve, the Securities Exchange Commission, the IMF, and so many other great places. At Bowdoin, we learn a lot of theory. Here, we see which part of theory could come into play. Everything in D.C. is real, is current, and we were able to be a part of it. Meeting and discussing with respected figures in the economics field or other international realms was challenging but also practical and stimulating. We had the opportunity to sit in and listen to the venerable ex-Chairman of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, discussing the state of the economy. We also visited the Pentagon and the White House.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I interned at Goldman Sachs last summer, which gave me some advantage in securing an offer from a long/short equity hedge fund in New York City. The fund invests primarily in Japan, but also does business outside of Japan. So I hope to get exposure to the Asian equity market. This shall bring me closer to my final plan of returning home, hopefully in a position to contribute to the development of Vietnam's stock market. I have learned that doing business in Asia is very different from the way things are done in America. So besides getting a formal education in the U.S. (B.A. or M.B.A.), I hope lots of exposure to the Asian business world will help me understand how things are done there before I return home to work.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
If you are still deciding, it would be best to visit the campus, talk to current students, professors, and sit in on several classes that interest you. The one thing I can say is that the skill sets and critical thinking that you learn at Bowdoin through its rigorous academic program and diverse extracurricular activities will help you succeed in any career path afterwards. Four years might seem long, but it flies by very fast. So make the most of your time and your opportunities here at Bowdoin. Challenge and be challenged — go U bears!