Hamline News

A Hamline Home Away from Home: Mien Le '23

Photo of Mien Le

International students face unique issues that the typical college student does not face, even in a normal year. But in a global pandemic, they face even more.

Due to the pandemic, there are only a handful of international students currently on campus. Most of them either returned home before lockdown or were forced to stay due to travel restrictions.

Mien Le ’23 is from Vietnam, a country she has not been to since before her first year at Hamline in 2019. She was unable to return to her family: her mother, father, and younger brother. She also left a cat in Vietnam.

“I [have] turned really sensitive from homesickness,” said Le, a communication studies major focusing on global communication and media studies.

The pandemic and being away from family for so long has negatively impacted her mental health. Everything around her somehow reminds her of her family and her home country in some way, she said.

But events put on by Hamline’s Asian Pacific American Coalition, like Lunar New Year, and friends helped her feel more at home. She is appreciative of the friends that she has made who value her culture and allow her to celebrate holidays she doesn’t have the opportunity to celebrate with her family.

Even small celebrations of parts of her culture make her feel less homesick and more connected with the culture that she has been away from for so long, she said.

Le remains hopeful about the future, especially now that people are getting vaccinated. This hopefully means that she will be able to return home to Vietnam this summer.

“Try to keep a positive thought,” Le said. “Rise to hope for a better future.”

In the almost two years that she has been away from home, Hamline has become Le’s home. She has found a support system that has become her family here. Many of the people in this support system are other international students, and they share a bond that is unique to them.

Le works with the marketing department and with The Oracle as the opinion section editor.

One of Le’s biggest supporters, along with international students overall on campus, has been Gaith Hijazin MBA ’11 MNM ’20, a former international student and Hamline alum. He currently serves as the area coordinator for Manor and Sorin Halls, serves as a global studies instructor, and is the Residential Housing Association (RHA) advisor.

Hijazin works with all international students and does his best to bring parts of their culture and homeland here to Hamline.

Support above all is the most important thing for anyone struggling with the drastic changes that the pandemic has brought, said Hijazin. Unique challenges and struggles that international students face require unique ways of supporting them. One of the most important aspects is to take into account their specific cultural values and circumstances

“This year is going to be the lesson for next year,” Le said. “The challenges that we are facing will make us stronger.”

Written by Eliza Hagstrom ’23
May 4, 2021