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Hospitality grad finds new confidence through volunteer work, extracurriculars

August 28, 2019

Andy Pham, Red River CollegeAs an international student, Andy Pham adjusted to life in a new land by diving headfirst into a range of extracurricular activities.

Pham, who is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is a graduate of Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

In addition to his studies, Pham represented his classmates on the College’s Student Advisory Board, participated in RRC’s cultural and language mentorship program and ran for a vice-president position on the RRC Students’ Association executive.

Being an active student “helps international students to be confident, (and gives them) the ability to be different, and to speak out,” says Pham, 25, who graduated from RRC in 2016.

“It was great to be on the board and it was great to run a campaign. It was a memorable time in my life. I never regret going to Red River College because there’s so much opportunity for students, but some students just don’t get to know it well, especially international students.

“My goal is one day I’m going to guide international students to where to go and where to be, and not just in academic life … That’s the best part, to be active and involved. Not just go to school, go home, read a book. No, you have to enjoy every moment.”

Pham, who is openly gay, also created and presided over RRC’s LGBTT* and Friends Club. Off campus, he acted as a tourism coordinator for the Pride Winnipeg Festival and a volunteer coordinator for the Reel Pride Film Festival.

“It’s important to me because it let me know who I am,” says Pham, who was not out before moving to Canada.

“I can be with the community more, because I have no chance to be with the community back home. I see a lot of people at Pride, successful themselves as career people, and now they also give back. They see a responsibility to do something meaningful to other people.”

In 2014, Pham earned an International Student of the Year Award from the provincial government for his contributions in and out of the classroom.

These days, Pham doesn’t have as much time for volunteer work, instead keeping the focus on his career. He works as a hospitality leasing coordinator for Edison Properties, a property management firm in Winnipeg.

Pham’s role at Edison is in the area of furnished suites.

“It’s furnished apartments, so it’s like a hotel, but not actually a hotel,” Pham says. “You can rent for short-term and long-term. I’m doing administration, bookings, a lot of customer service, assisting housekeeping with move-in and move-out schedules, answering emails, concerns, questions, all that fun stuff.”

Pham’s position requires strong communication skills. Prior to entering the Hospitality program, Pham studied at RRC’s Language Training Centre for six months. He says his outgoing nature allowed him to adapt easily to interacting in English.

“I think everybody has a different experience. It was easy for me but maybe not easy for someone else. I would say it is easy for me because I’m active and I’m pretty open-minded,” he says.

“It’s a great thing that you’re surrounded by people who start off like you. They barely know much English, but they slowly emerge into the culture, the language, the slang and all the fun stuff. It’s a great time. I have great friends, great instructors from there. I can’t ask for more.”

While he’s currently concentrating on his career, Pham is still active and outgoing. In fact, he’s currently training at VogueFit to be a competitive pole dancer.

“I’m just an art person. I’m just a dancer,” Pham says. “Trust me, it’s lived with me since when I was little kid. I can’t say it interests me, it’s actually inside me since I was little. It’s just now I have time and I have the financial stability to pursue my dreams.”

Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)