Vietnamese Luther student, Tai Nguyen, finds second family in Cresco

CRESCO - The Covid-19 pandemic swept the nation at alarming rates, shutting down schools, businesses, and forcing every day life to a halt. Caught in the mix were students from countries all around the world, struggling to find a way to get home after colleges shut down. One Luther student,  Tai Nguyen, shares his story as he went from nearly homeless, thousands of miles from his family in Vietnam, to finding a second family in Cresco.
Stan and Bach Fosaaen live in Cresco, Stan serves on the City Council, and Bach  is a former employee of Luther College. Getting to know the students was one of Bach’s favorite parts of her job. Immigrating from Laos at a young age, fleeing the war, she was able to understand the just below the surface struggles international students faced. She was able to connect with them in ways that others couldn’t, and truly opened her heart every shift she worked with them. Nguyen recounts how he would always stop by to see Bach, and how she became a safe space for him,  as well as other students, on campus. 
When Luther College in Decorah shut down in early 2020, students and faculty were asked to leave the grounds. At the time, airports were already shut down, many were left to temporarily live in the airports or find other housing arrangements. 
When the Fosaaens heard about Nguyen’s and two other students’ situation (one other student from Vietnam, and one from India), they did not hesitate to drive out to the campus and pick up the students. “It wasn’t even a question of if” said Bach, “I knew we had to help them.” 
The Fosaaens have daughters who had moved out previously, so the boys ended up sharing what used to be their rooms. They teased each other about the pink decor, yet were relieved to have a safe and comfortable place to stay. Classes continued online, and the boys were able to finish out their semester. Nguyen only stayed with the Fosaaens for two months, but in this time, they became close. He felt fortunate, as he understood the risk the Fosaaens were taking by inviting people into their home during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Vietnam closed its borders completely to the outside world. The country sent a rescue plane to D.C. to retrieve their citizens, but due to protesting, Nguyen had to fly out of Rochester. At the time, Vietnam and the United States did not have a relationship. The rescue plane was forced to land on a runway, and made passengers walk up to the plane for check in. During the 15-16 hour flight, goggles, full suits, and masks had to be worn. Nguyen recounts how he “watched the same three hour movie over and over” and that the plane was “hot and uncomfortable” due to the temperature being kept high to combat covid. 
Upon the plane’s arrival in Vietnam, the rescued passengers were taken to a quarantine camp, where they had to stay for two weeks before being allowed back into the communities. During the two weeks, Nguyen’s birthday passed, and his family celebrated by delivering a cake to the camp and gifting snacks. 
Covid began to spread in Vietnam  when the country opened its borders for tourism, late in 2022. During the country’s shut down, life preceeded as normal. Restaurants and businesses remained opened. Every neighborhood had a testing center to help prevent any spreading.  
In 2021, Nguyen came back to finish his last year of college, and tried to visit the Fosaaens whenever he could. After facetime calls between the Fosaaens and his family, the Nguyen family made plans to visit, exactly four years after Tai was finally able to travel home. 

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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