Le Nyugen thrives in America

Richard Kelly

As it played a large role early in her life, it wasn’t tough for Trang Le Nyugen to think she might stay interested in tennis. But, she never expected it would help bring her to America.

Le Nyugen, the MIAA’s Most Valuable Player last season, is expecting a promising end to her senior year as she and her team hopes to win the MIAA Conference Championship, after finishing as runner-up last year.

Prior to her play at Washburn and previously Barton County Community College, she lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her father and mother were both very involved in tennis and she began playing at age 12. And while she had played many national tournaments up to the point of graduating high school, she would not have the opportunities she has today had it not been for an e-mail sent to her family after her senior year in high school.

“The coach in Barton actually sent an e-mail to me and sent it to my dad and asked me about a scholarship. We do not know how he got the information. It was just magically and we just see it as a gift. It’s just so surprising,” said Le Nyugen.

After receiving the offer during the summer, she came to America by herself in January 2007. When she arrived at the airport, she saw a new culture, a new language and even new weather for the first time. When Le Nyugen arrived, she did not know English and had never seen snow, but she has found the people of Kansas to be a great help with everything she did not know.

“It’s really hard when people don’t understand what you’re saying and you can’t talk, but that’s why I love the people in Kansas,” said Le Nyugen. “They’re helping me to speak; they teach me and are just willing to do whatever. That’s why I’ve decided to stay in Kansas.”

After arriving, she spent her first two years at Barton County before transferring to Washburn. The previous tennis coach at Washburn, Jennifer Hastert, contacted her and offered her a full scholarship. And Dave Alden, who took over as coach the year Le Nyugen started, finds her as a great asset to the team as a whole.

“She’s the type of player that the more matches she plays, the better she gets,” said Alden. “She’s gotten through that period now of uncertainty and is playing to the potential she has.”

When Le Nyugen transferred, she was a junior and the other five players on the women’s team were freshmen. She has become a mentor for many of the players, but she also finds herself commonly connected to all of them, since they all started at Washburn at the same time last season.

“When we got here, they were all freshmen and I was a junior but the odd thing we had in common was that we were all new to Washburn and a totally new team. That’s why we all had the same level of not knowing much about Washburn,” said Le Nyugen. “So from there, we learned together, even though I am older. And I try to be a leader and have a lot of tennis experience, but we actually are all growing together.”

She and her doubles partner, Alyssa Castillo have also gelled well at this point in the season, as they are now the No. 1 doubles team on the roster. They did not start as partners at the beginning of the season, but have won all three MIAA matches as partners by the scores of 8-6, 8-2 and 8-3. They will look to continue that streak when they play Northwest Missouri State at home either today or tomorrow, weather permitting, at 3 p.m.

To Castillo, Le Nyugen’s presence brings out everyone’s best play.

“She’s definitely a leader,” said Castillo. “If we get off task, she’ll get us back on track. She pushes me. I don’t know about everyone else, but she really pushes me to the next level.”

Outside of tennis, Le Nyugen is also very involved at Washburn. She is a business major but also is the President of the International Club, a WSGA senate member, a member of the Washburn Leadership Institute, a Bod Squad member, a member of Mortar Board and is also a tour guide for the Future Alumni Network.

But she likes the challenge of staying busy.

“I don’t think it’s hard to balance. I think to keep myself busy is a good thing,” she said. “As an international student, it’s awfully hard to find the time for all these things, but if I have to do a lot of stuff like I’m doing right now, I just have to deal with it.”

After she completes her business degree, Le Nyugen does plan on continuing to play tennis at least recreationally and plans to stay in America to pursue her master’s in business. Following that, she wants to return to Vietnam. She feels she has so much she could take back to her country.

“I’m one of the luckiest girls; I got to come to America without any cost,” said Le Nguyen. “But thousands of students back in my country, they don’t have a chance to go so I have to appreciate what I have. It was surprising, but my family is happy for me and I am happy for me so that’s why I always use every single minute to do everything here.

“But my plan is, I want to go back (to Vietnam). I feel like everything here is so good and everything is so perfect here. My country is not. I think if I come here and learn so much, why don’t I bring the good things back?”