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Grad Sees NOVA as a Beacon of Hope—An Opportunity Her Parents Didn’t Have

Grad Sees NOVA as a Beacon of Hope—An Opportunity Her Parents Didn’t Have

As NOVA continues to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, meet Ollie Bao Tran Vo, who prefers to go by Ollie Vo. She loves helping students and is fascinated by economics!

Now a proud NOVA graduate (as of Monday), Ollie Vo plans to head to a four-year university. She is excited about her future! She vows to work hard and do well in school. Whether that's getting her bachelor's or attending law school. Ollie Vo wants to take advantage of opportunities that her parents and grandparents never had.   

Tell us a little about yourself and your background:
I always remind myself, "You are here. You have the chance to pursue a college degree. I want to be successful because my parents and grandparents did not have this chance. That is why I always try to work hard. It is my daily MOTIVATION! 

I am a first-generation college student. I was born in Vietnam and lived there for 13 years before our family moved to Virginia when I was in 7th grade. I attended Thoreau Middle School and James Madison High School, both in Vienna.

When I first came to America, I encountered A LOT of hardships because English is NOT my native tongue. I had difficulty making friends and adjusting to the new lifestyle. Due to the language barrier, it took me twice the time to do classwork and homework. That's why I have empathy for people who come to America to start a new life.

I've been working at the Advising Center on the Annandale Campus for two years. I absolutely love it! I love helping students! At NOVA, we have a lot of ESL students, and I see myself in them! That's why I feel I need to help them because I can relate to their struggles. I love talking to students and figuring out how I can help them.  

What brought you to NOVA?
I started at NOVA in the summer of 2021. I took some online classes with the Jumpstart program that NOVA offered, and that was very helpful.

In high school, I took every possible AP class you can imagine. I took the SAT, and I applied to many different schools. I didn't know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I ended up on the NOVA website and saw how this institution is so great. It offers you guaranteed admission, and it's affordable. That's a huge point; it's affordable. That's why I came here.

My younger brother wants to attend NOVA. I was telling him NOVA's great. It’s a community college, it’s diverse and it’s a great way to get to know people and a great way to get your tuition cheap and get the education you need. I am fascinated by the different stories I hear from NOVA students!

When working at the Advising Center, I heard many sad stories of students not getting into their dream colleges due to the extremely competitive first-year applicant pool. NOVA is like a second chance--A BEACON OF HOPE.

What did you study at NOVA?
I majored in social science, and I have a certificate in business IT. After graduation, I plan on transferring to a four-year in the fall. I love economics and want to major in it because I see how the economy fluctuates, especially when COVID hit. I want to do this, and I'm passionate about it. Economics is going to be my major. I know there's a lot of math involved, but I will work hard. Then I will go to law school. I want to become a corporate lawyer.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met. 
I love NOVA because of its flexibility in terms of choosing classes; you can take classes in person, virtually or online. Also, if you don't like one campus, you can travel to the other campuses to take classes. That's what I love about NOVA, the number of resources you have as a student.

Everyone at NOVA--office workers, staff and faculty--are READY to help any students who are in need! I love the professors. Every professor I have had so far, the first thing they say is, "I understand that life happens." They understand when you are going through challenges, and they are willing to help you. Also, they are very knowledgeable and teach with passion. 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
Do not wait until the last minute to do your research, and don't be afraid to ask questions. I know this is general advice, but you have no idea how many people are afraid to ask for help. That's why I love speaking to students because I'm a student just like them, and if I know something, I want to share it with them. Research your passion because I often see that when a student doesn't find their passion, they don't have any enthusiasm in classes. 

Try not to compare yourself to others and follow your own path. I've seen people trying to set goals by seeing what someone else is doing. They set this impossible goal that they don't even want. When things don't work out, it makes them feel so down. Instead, try to love yourself and think about what you really want. You can't just catch up to somebody else's dream because you have to have your own dream. 

When you walk across the graduation stage, what will be your thoughts about your NOVA experience?
Going to NOVA is probably the best decision I have ever made, and I recommend it to everybody, including my younger brother. If you asked me what I would do differently in middle or high school, I would have many things to list, but this college is great!

I have never regretted anything during my two years of studying at NOVA. I had great professors, met intelligent and hard-working people and had a good opportunity to network.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA. What career pursuits are you exploring?
I researched, and an economics major will teach me so much. It explains life situations and makes so much sense. It explains why inflation happens, why consumers react in a certain way or why the government jumps in to pass policies. That is the reason I love economics. It's not just mathematics; it comes with theories. That's why I chose it. "I want to become a corporate attorney because I'm passionate about statistics." I will look at how I can help a company grow its profits and lessen its debts. I can do this!

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.