A Passion for History, Entrepreneurship, and The Silicon Valley Journey of Trinh Trung Kien ’25

Recognizing the importance of interdisciplinary thinking in modern society, Trinh Trung Kiên chose to pursue his studies at Fulbright University Vietnam. Here, liberal arts education situated within an international learning environment has enabled Kiên to nurture his passion for the social sciences, history, psychology, and business all at once. This ultimately brought him to the Silicon Valley Impact Camp (SVIC) for the summer of 2023.

Three facts about Kiên:

  • One of 7 scholarship recipients from Fulbright to attend the Silicon Valley Impact Camp (SVIC) in the U.S. in 2023.
  • Major at Fulbright: Social Sciences
  • Passionate about History, Military Science, Psychology, and Entrepreneurship

Why did you choose Fulbright University Vietnam over other choices?

Since high school, I’ve realized the necessity of interdisciplinary thinking. I believe the world of the future demands the ability to do research, to think critically, and a capacity to bridge the knowledge of multiple fields to find innovative solutions to challenges. I was aware of the reputation of Fulbright’s postgraduate program, the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP). I had heard the name “Fulbright” mentioned in President Obama’s speech during his visit to Vietnam in 2016. Additionally, I received positive feedback from two alumni of my high school who were Fulbright students. Therefore, I attended the Fulbright admissions event in Bình Định, and ultimately chose Fulbright’s liberal arts education model for my university journey.

Kien in his UC Berkeley hoodie holding his Fulbright pennant at the San Francisco Airport

Over the past two years, how have you been able to make use of Fulbright’s liberal arts education?

I take pride in the research I conducted for the Modern Vietnamese Culture and Society (MVCS) course. In this project, I delved into the psychological well-being of post-war Vietnamese veterans. I applied knowledge from history, psychology, and sociology to interview soldiers of the Vietnam War, confirming the existence of PTSD in Vietnamese veterans, and gaining a newfound empathy towards their experience and sacrifices.

I also greatly appreciate how faculty members at Fulbright create a positive and encouraging learning environment. They not only instill knowledge but also foster in us critical thinking ability and the confidence to express our opinions. I still cherish my experience in Comparative Politics with Dr. Nguyễn Thành Trung. Dr. Trung is an expert in the history and politics of Vietnam, the U.S., China, and Southeast Asia. He is further an engaging lecturer, and he dedicated time after class to converse with students. I eagerly participated in discussions and I gained tremendous insights from his guidance.

Most recently, the interdisciplinary knowledge and skills I acquired over two years at Fulbright enabled me to successfully apply for the SVIC program. This program sought young individuals with creative entrepreneurial ideas and project management experience for an intensive learning program on entrepreneurship. Despite majoring in Social Sciences, the multiple subjects I studied at Fulbright such as economics and psychology equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to successfully apply for the program.

Kien and fellow Fulbrighters arrived in California for SVIC 2023

SVIC brought you to Silicon Valley? What were some memorable experiences you had while at SVIC?

Absolutely! Silicon Valley Impact Camp is a summer program on innovation and entrepreneurship organized by the University of California at Berkeley. Along with six fellow Fulbright students, I received a scholarship to attend the program from Fulbright and Schoolab. Over the four weeks of the program, I participated in training sessions led by experts in entrepreneurship and management. I learned concepts and methods to transform business ideas into robust enterprises. In addition to the main course at UC Berkeley, I also had the opportunity to study at Stanford University. The program also included industry visits to leading global companies and organizations such as Google, Bloomberg Beta, Swissnex, and more, immersing participants in the “dare to think, dare to do” mindset of Silicon Valley.

Kien and fellow Vietnamese SVIC participants on UC Berkeley campus.

Kien and his fellow Vietnamese SVIC participants on the ground of Stanford University

Kien and fellow SVIC program participants visiting Google’s headquarter in the Silicon Valley

SVIC provided me with the opportunity to experience the spirit of the Silicon Valley first hand – a spirit of passionate creativity, of adventure, and non-stop innovation. Participants of the Silicon Valley Impact Camp got the opportunity to listen to pitches from a multitude of start-ups which convened in California and attended the Startup World Cup event at the Computer History Museum. We also successfully completed our business model and pitched ideas to industry experts for their feedback.

This journey also allowed me to forge deeper connections with new friends from Fulbright and from various parts of the world. My peers and I, we attended the World Cup match between the Vietnamese women’s soccer team and the U.S. women’s team. This was an unforgettable memory. On this occasion, I proudly wore the colors of Vietnam to cheer for our team amidst American fans. I felt fortunate to experience this historic event of the national Vietnamese Women’s Soccer Team’s first appearance in the World Cup in such a special setting. Additionally, my friends and I visited world renowned museums together, such as the California Academy of Sciences, the world’s leading interactive science museum – Exploratorium, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Kien cheering for the Vietnam Women’s National Soccer Team in the World Cup match against the US Women’s National Soccer Team

Any advice for Fulbright students interested in SVIC in the future?

I hope that any student interested in the next installment of SVIC will apply. I am very grateful to Fulbright and Schoolab for a memorable summer. Even though my major is not technology or business, I believe that Fulbright’s liberal arts education approach and interdisciplinary thinking training have equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully apply for SVIC. Furthermore, it has enabled me to learn and extract a great deal of value from SVIC. I applied what I learned at Fulbright with the new knowledge from the program, and thus gathered a wealth of experience that I will gradually apply to projects, innovative ventures, and community programs in the future.

To make the most of the resources from SVIC, before participating in the program, you should have a well-thought-out project idea. This way, you can grasp important information for your project throughout the course, and ask insightful questions to experts during pitching sessions to address the project’s critical points.

Kien and fellow SVIC program participants during a pitching session with corporate leaders

Much as SVIC is an academic experience, it is also a one-in-a-lifetime networking opportunity which helped me build many meaningful friendships. Fulbright not only unites us students on campus but experiences like SVIC also unite us in a city halfway around the world. The summer of 2023, traveling to the U.S. together with my SVIC friends, cooking together, studying together in California, has been truly a priceless experience in my college years.

If you have the opportunity to participate in SVIC in the coming seasons, I hope you will also spend a lot of time exploring California together with your program mates to build beautiful and meaningful memories.

Kien and other SVIC teammates on an outing trip during their program with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

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