Education Prepares Vietnamese Nun to Give Back

With little more than her faith and a few belongings, six years ago Sister Nuong Bui traveled to the United to States to embark on a journey of self discovery and sacrifice with one goal in mind:

To become a nurse.

Many people choose this career path because they like helping people, enjoy healthcare, or even because of the great pay. But in Bui’s case, the driving force behind her decision to travel more than 8,000 miles away from her home country encompasses even more.

“I’ll use my skills to help the poor and those people in need in Vietnam,” Bui said. “It is one of my missions to serve for the poor.”

As a Catholic nun with The Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Sóc Trăng, Vietnam, Bui has committed her life to sharing her faith and giving her time and talents to those who need it most. When her community gave her the task of studying to become a nurse, she bravely made Iowa home to pursue her education— despite not knowing a soul nor English.

“When I first came to U.S. I was so worried because I had no family, friends or relatives,” she said.

With language barriers, cultural differences and all, Nuong was able to find a caring community in both the local congregations who welcomed her and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. Starting her journey by first living in Dubuque with the Sisters of the Presentation and taking English classes, she set her sights on earning her Associate of Arts Degree at Scott Community College (SCC) before entering the practical nursing program at Clinton Community College (CCC). With the help of EICC’s Foundations and financial aid, Bui received several scholarships to make funding her education possible—something she had been concerned about when first traveling to the U.S.

“Whenever there has been a chance for me to apply for a scholarship, they’ve helped me with the application and goal statement,” she said. “I really appreciate that.”

Bui has been equally grateful for the connections and emotional support she’s gained by joining numerous student organizations, including Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, TRIO and RISE—programs dedicated to enhancing student success by providing services to those facing educational, economic or cultural challenges.

“I have been so much encouraged and supported through academics, but also life skills,” she said. “It’s been so meaningful to me.”

The student groups, and prayer, were especially crucial when the pandemic brought life to a standstill. The relationships she formed, though often experienced virtually, helped her overcome loneliness and stay focused on reaching her goals. She’s proven that no matter your background or life experiences, one person’s individual achievements can ripple through a community like a stone thrown in the water—impacting numerous lives even thousands of miles away.

“The college not only supported me in my education, but is helping support the poor through my future career,” she said. “CCC is making my dream come true.”

Bui will finish her clinicals this summer, graduating with a Practical Nursing Diploma. She plans to continue her education at St. Ambrose University before returning to Vietnam, where she will use her new skills and compassion to make a difference.

Learn more about the college’s nursing programs, including transfer agreements at