APASA is excited to announce our fourth APA Leader: Isabelle Nguyen! Isabelle has been highly involved in USC's VSA as Graphics Director, Media Director, and VCN's program designer, set designer, and co-script writer. Peers describe her as "strong, opinionated, and artsy". Read more about Isabelle's APA journey in her interview below!

What does being APA mean to you?

To me, being APA means community. As a minority group, it’s important to stand together and celebrate our shared heritage and our roots. Being born and raised in America, it’s always a worry that our traditions will someday be forgotten or obsolete. I think having a community there for you helps to remind us that our culture is here, it’s present, and it’s important. Whether it’s through food or music or dance or movies, having people who share this fundamental aspect of ourselves is so crucial and I am forever thankful for my community of people!!

Explain your involvement in the APA community.

Actually, I wasn’t super involved in the APA community until recently. I was hesitant to join many APASA clubs at first because I was worried that I was not “cultured” enough, especially in terms of my Vietnamese-ness. However, one of my best friends, Allison, became president for VSA in fall of 2016 and I found myself becoming more and more active in the club. I started falling in love with the warmth, the people, the atmosphere, the everything. And from there I was basically sucked into VSA. I became part of their executive board that spring as Social Media director, which was a combined role of marketing director, graphics director, and historian. I also helped write the script for that year’s VCN (Vietnamese Culture Night) and made the program for it. Honestly, I was so freaking overwhelmed. I had never been on e-board at USC nor had I had any experience in marketing, photography, graphics, play writing, or program making. But I had enthusiasm!! And passion!! I was so excited to work with everyone!!

I used this energy to fire me up for another round as Media Director this year. The semester before had really taught me a lot about all these areas that I was formally clueless in. For VCN this time, I was largely in charge of writing the script in addition to being in charge of the program, graphics, and set design. Another tough year of juggling, but looking back I’m so happy that I didn’t give up. My surprising involvement with VSA and the APA community has helped me in ways that I never could have imagined. Through this experience I have met some of the most amazing, hard-working people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, found a purpose in this massive, sometimes intimidating place, and have become an overall happier individual!!  

What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders?

I think I would definitely tell them to be confident in themselves and to not be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone! For my first few years here I was terrified of going out to things and making friends because I thought I was not cultured enough or cool enough. IDK HAHA I WAS WEAK. I was so insecure and that closed a lot of doors for me. I know this advice is cheesy but I really think that having confidence in yourself is the foundation of success academically, socially, in every aspect of life really. Instead of worrying about what others think, just live your life like the flourishing flower you are!! And I know that confidence doesn’t just happen overnight but it’s something to keep in mind when you’re faced with the scary task of trying something new or meeting new people. Slow and steady wins the race, people!!!

What kind of legacy do you want to leave at USC?

I want to leave USC knowing that I’ve left a meaningful legacy where people have a space they are loved and accepted, a place where people are inspired to be more caring and compassionate. I’m motivated to do the things that I do because I want those who have ever felt excluded, inadequate, or lonely to know that there is a place for you!! It’s easy to feel like you’re an insignificant part of a huge world (it’s a crippling fear for me actually HAHA) and I want to do my part in ensuring that USC has these sanctuaries where people can grow and thrive, even if it’s just within our quaint, little VSA.

If you could give a Ted Talk, what would it be about?

I LOVE TED TALKS. If I had the grand honor of giving one, it would definitely be about how it’s okay to not know what you want to do in life. (tbh, there’s one kinda like this that I’ve watched but I’ll put an Isabelle spin on it dw) One of my biggest struggles at USC (that I am still experiencing to this very moment) is feeling like I have no direction in life. I always hated the question, “So what do you want to do in the future?” or “What are your plans after graduation?” and would blush in embarrassment because I DIDN’T KNOW. There exists this romantic notion that we have all this one calling in life and that is what we were meant to do for the rest of life and all of eternity. But what if we don’t know?

The education system prior to college leaves little room to explore what we really love. My tiger mom (ily) as well as my own pressure on myself caused me to only focus on academic, clubs and sports that I didn’t really like, etc. How was I supposed to discover myself when this was all I knew?

Furthermore, there’s still dreadful stigma in the APA community where the arts aren’t as supported as other areas of study. It sucks to hear people dismiss a whole section of life that you might be interested in!! These limitations really caused me to feel suffocated because I suck at math and science and I felt like I was doomed for a life of uselessness.  

It was only after hating all my classes for 16 years and multiple personality tests later that I realized what I wanted to do, kinda. So I would just want to let the world know that there is no shame in not being 100000% sure. It’s okay to be a little lost!! We have the rest of our lives to realize who we are and what we love. We’re constantly changing as people and we should take the time to reflect and learn about ourselves!! It’s worthwhile and I am rooting for everyone!!


My momma: would not be alive if you hadn’t showed me how to do laundry, dropped off food when I was starving, and pushed me to do better!!! Also if you hadn’t birthed me. Ty.

My siblings: tbh they don’t do much except burn me in the group chat but it’s okay I will shout them out anyway LOL.

VSA: thank you for being the outlet I needed to practice my love for graphic design!! Thank you for being so welcoming and for being my home these recent years!! The mems are real!! @old ladies: the most hardworking, supportive people that I have encountered and I truly cherish all the y’all!! Thanks for showing me what passion is and for being with me for this wild ride!! I LOVE Y’ALL *happy tears* *group hug* *regular crying* @e-board and interns: something my fave high school teacher said was that the 2 rules of life were work hard and be nice. Y’all embody this to the core and I am so proud!!!

USC pals: ILY, thank you for keeping a needy girl company, for helping me thru my daily struggles, and for eating with me at all hours of the day. College is scary but having y’all there made it the best time. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

High school pals: MY #1 FANS. Ty for always lifting me up from afar and for constantly coming to see me in the midst of your busy schedules. I was also so scared of drifting apart but y’all proved me wrong!!! ILY. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Mr. Michael, Chang Laoshi, Ozzy: to the most inspiring educators I could ask for, thank you for giving me the honor of learning from you. Thank you for being there for me--the best teachers are the ones that become family!!

Bub: for encouraging me to work harder, love more, and listen to podcasts.

SORRY SORRY I LOVE TOO MANY PEOPLE. MY FINGERS WILL FALL OFF IF I TYPE THEM ALL OUT. BUT YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Ty to everyone anyone who has ever loved me, cheered me on, or helped me out. My gratefulness is unending and I am so blessed!! ILY ALL.