Illinois Wesleyan New Home for Former Tulane Student
September 12, 2005
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — On the second floor of Illinois Wesleyan’s Gulick Hall, Minh Nguyen
says some of his floormates have been kind of loud, occasionally knocking on doors
in the middle of the night.
Nguyen, who arrived at Illinois Wesleyan on Labor Day (Sept. 5) after being evacuated
from Tulane University in New Orleans 10 days earlier, is not complaining about his
Gulick Hall neighbors. He is just glad to be, finally, in college.
An 18-year-old Vietnamese citizen, Nguyen spent his senior year in high school as
an exchange student in Fort Worth, Texas, and had applied (and been accepted) at both
IWU and Tulane for his college education. He opted for Tulane and arrived, with his
Texas host family, for first year orientation at the New Orleans school on the morning
of Saturday, August 27.
He was there for a half a day.
With the path and ferocity of Hurricane Katrina bearing down on New Orleans, Nguyen
was encouraged by Tulane officials to leave his four suitcases in the dorm room he
had been assigned and evacuate the campus for a few days.
“Classes were to start the next Wednesday (August 31), and they thought we’d all be
able to be back on campus by then,” said Nguyen, who returned with his host family
to Fort Worth with only one of his suitcases and his laptop computer.
Tulane officials were right about the evacuation. But when the levee broke, leaving
the city and environs submerged in floodwaters, all 13,000 Tulane students, including
Nguyen, were displaced.
In Fort Worth, knowing that a return to Tulane was impossible for an undetermined
length of time, Nguyen started making calls to some colleges and universities who
were accepting the displaced students, and ended up back at Illinois Wesleyan, where
his secondary school records were already on file and where a financial aid plan was
already in place.
With his one suitcase and laptop, he flew out of Fort Worth at 4 a.m. on Labor Day,
arrived in Bloomington mid-morning, and was able to start classes the following day,
only a week behind the rest of campus.
“My sister was here from Washington, D.C., for the first couple of days to help me
get settled in,” said Nguyen, who is majoring in business and is taking classes in
physics, calculus, economics and his first-year Gateway course.
“Getting him into classes and onto a good floor in a good dorm (Gulick) was of primary
importance,” said Reenie Bradley, international student advisor at Illinois Wesleyan.
“There are still some things that need to be taken care of like banking and getting
his immigration and registration established, which we are working on with Homeland
Not to mention some shopping. Nguyen, dressed in shorts, a tee shirt and sandals,
is fine as long as temperatures remain warm in central Illinois. “We’ll have to take
it slowly and get things over a period of time,” said Bradley, who is keeping an eye
on the Tulane website to find out when Nguyen’s other belongings might be able to
be retrieved. (The best guess is January 2006.)
As for what Nguyen might decide when Tulane reopens, whenever that may be, he shrugs
and says he doesn’t know. But for now he is adapting.
In fact, Nguyen’s adaptation and assimilation might be easier and quicker than one
might imagine. On his first Friday night at Illinois Wesleyan, Nguyen found his way
to the Shirk Center for Athletics to watch the Titans play in a volleyball tournament.
Standing in the crowd, he looked like any other contented college student who lived
in a noisy dorm, instead of one spared from the wake of Hurricane Katrina.