Ngoc Nguyen

Ngoc Nguyen
Raleigh, NC
b. Nha Trang, Vietnam

"We were the very first wave of refugees who came over. We lived close to campus and were somewhat isolated from the surrounding community."

"I remember my Dad talking about a slingshot [he had as a kid]. He felt bad about killing birds. So he put the slingshot away and he's a vegetarian now."

"Each younger generation is becoming more and more Americanized. The older generation still maintains their ways of thinking and a perspective on life that is very different."

Ngoc Nguyen was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam in 1972, and came to the United States at the age of three with her mother  and little sister one day before the Fall of Saigon (April 30, 1975). Her father, Phung Nguyen, had received a scholarship to study at Duke University and had just finished his Master’s degree when he learned that his wife and daughters escaped Vietnam safely. He chose to stay at Duke to pursue a PhD in political science. Ngoc’s earliest childhood memories of life in the US included riding her purple tricycle down the big grassy hill at their Durham apartment, and wheeling the metal laundry cart to the laundromat with her mother, Nhu Y Nguyen.  When her father received a teaching position at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, the family relocated to Guilford County.  Ngoc tagged along with her mother to English classes at Guilford Technical Community College, and took ESL classes of her own as a student at Vandalia Elementary School.  

She was one of the few Asian-American students in the area up until high school. As more Vietnamese moved to Greensboro, her family supported the community by founding the Vietnamese Association of Greensboro in 1980 and the Vietnamese Buddhist temple (Chua Quan Am) in 1982.  Her father served as President of the Vietnamese Association of Greensboro from 1980 to 1995 and helped organize the annual Tet celebration, among other cultural events. When 600 Montagnard refugees were resettled in Greensboro between 1986 and 1992, the Nguyens and other Vietnamese families assisted with their assimilation.
Today, Ngoc is employed as a Contract Specialist for the North Carolina Department of Revenue, and serves as a board member for the Vietnamese-American Association of Raleigh and the Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity (ACRED) for the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Carolina Asia Center