To celebrate teacher appreciation week, World Learning interviewed Global UGRAD student Huy Thuc Ha and his professor Dr. Carolyn Campbell, regarding their experiences in the African American Studies course at Wayne State University. Huy is from Vietnam studying Industrial Management, and Dr. Campbell is a professor in the Department of African American Studies.
Q: As an international student, what was your experience in a class focused on American culture?
Huy: When I chose the class “Introduction to African American Studies”, I was really nervous because I thought this course required me to have a deep knowledge about African American history. For me, when I first came here, reading and speaking like a usual American student was really hard for me. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand American literature, or the way authors wrote their books. However, everything changed on my first day of class. I was greeted by the teacher and students. People welcomed me like a close friend theirs.
Q: What surprised you about the U.S. education system and/or your professor?
Huy: During the very first days in class, I couldn’t keep up with the readings because I was late by two weeks and my English was not that good. I went to the teacher to ask for help, told her about the reasons for my difficulties and hoped she could understand me. I was really surprised about the way she talked to me warmly and offered me help. Furthermore, she always supports students and gives them compliments to cheer their work. She also gave us a chance to go to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African History to have a visual about what we learned in class. I think I’m very lucky to be a student of this class. It brings me new experiences and knowledge which I would never have if I studied in Vietnam.
Q: What have you learned about African American culture and history?
Huy: “Introduction to African American Studies” gave me so much new knowledge about African American people. I’ve learned that African American people are just like Vietnamese people. We both have our ambition and dreams. We fought for decades to get our freedom and right now we live our own lives. I recognize that African American people have such an amazing talent for art and music. This was the most important factor for them to keep on hoping and fighting for their lives in the past.
Q: Is there a African American leader who especially inspires you?
Huy: From lectures, articles, I’ve known a lot of information about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. However, Fred Hampton is the one who impressed me the most. Fred Hampton was one of the leaders of Black Panther. He was 21 years old, same age as me. However, what he did was outstanding. This young man was a brilliant speaker and he stood up for all black people without any fear. He was assassinated, but what he left was the fire of inspiration. A fire of freedom and human rights for next generation. I learned that no matter how young you are, if you have ambition and you work for it, you can do it. You can contribute to this society to make it more beautiful.
Q: How has your experience been teaching a Global UGRAD student?
Dr. Campbell: Mr. Ha has become an exceptionally active student in this class. He performs at an exemplary level in all aspects of the course. His contributions to class discussions are among the most frequent and consistent of any student. They are consistently thoughtful, compassionate, evidence-based and well informed. It is fascinating to observe his interactions with American students as they independently work out issues of language and cultural differences.
Q: How has having a Global UGRAD student impacted your class?
Dr. Campbell: Mr. Ha is a very pleasant person with a strong sense of social justice. He demonstrates this in his enthusiastic discussion of similarities (and differences) between Vietnamese and African American experiences of oppression. He is committed to an open-minded approach in expressing his interest in African American cultural experiences. His participation as a student in this class has enhanced the course experience for all. His outstanding intellectual ability and exceptionally high motivation, has been contagious, creating additional enthusiasm for all in the learning environment. As an educator, I find it particularly rewarding to observe students excited about learning
Written by Huy Thuc Ha (Vietnam) a 2017-2018 Global UGRAD student at Wayne State University and Dr. Carolyn Campbell, a professor at Wayne State University