Hung Dinh, 30, and his sister Chau Dinh, 27, have always been close. The mere three-year age gap between them means they were raised side by side, often in each other's shadow. Despite their closeness, or perhaps because of it, the two have always been competitive.
"He was always better than me," says Chau. "So, my parents wanted me to consider him my example. I had to be better and better in order to catch up with him."
Chau indeed kept up with her big brother. They graduated from the same high school and undergraduate college in Vietnam, their native country, and on Friday, Dec 8, they will both graduate from Clayton State University with their MBAs.
Just three years ago in April 2014, the duo moved to the United States from Vietnam to pursue graduate studies. Hung holds an undergraduate degree in engineering from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology in Vietnam and Chau holds an undergraduate degree in business from the same university.
The siblings' academic endeavor to the United States was sponsored by their grandparents, who came to America via a government program that granted immigration to Vietnam War veterans who had served in the U.S. Army.
Initially, Hung and Chau wanted to find work in the States before pursuing graduate degrees, but were quickly persuaded to reprioritize.
"When we got here, we wanted to find a job first and pursue education later but my grandparents really wanted us to focus on our education first, so we decided to satisfy them first," jokes Hung.
So, the two began researching which university in Georgia they would attend and came across Clayton State. It was the only institute that met all of the couple's desires. It offered an AACSB-accredited MBA program, the tuition was affordable, it wasn't too far of a commute from home, but most importantly, it's academic environment had a superb reputation.
"I heard a lot complements about the high quality academic environment at CSU," says Hung. "And about the faculty and staff who are very dedicated and support students during the program as well as post-graduation."
Chau and Hung decided to pursue their MBAs at Clayton State and have no regrets in doing so.
"We truly believe that choosing to attend the MBA program at Clayton State is one of the smartest decisions we’ve made in our lives," says Hung.
In addition to pursuing graduate degrees, Hung and Chau also had to adjust to a brand-new nation, government and culture. Some things were easy for the duo to adjust to. Their favorite part about American culture is the privacy it seems to offer.
"We like the way American people interact with each other. It's very friendly and open but they still respect your private your life," Hung says. "It's totally different in our culture. They're still friendly but it’s a higher level of interference in your personal life."
However, some things were harder for Chau and Hung to acclimate to. The siblings, initially, had a difficult time interacting with English speakers and the language barrier was frustrating at times.
"In the beginning, I didn't really understand what the professors were saying," says Chau.
"We didn't have any problem with reading, writing or grammar," Hung adds. "But speaking was difficult."
Hung and Chau are able to speak and understand English much better now and attribute a lot of this progress to Charles Phipps, ESL Coordinator at Clayton State.
"We initiated a class with him called a conversation class," says Hung. "It was an hour and a half every week on Fridays and we would talk with him about the speaking topics we weren't confident in. It was one of the things that really helped with language."
The two have also supported each other through this academic journey. They share books and remind each other of upcoming test and quiz dates. Yet, the competitive spirit between them still remains.
"In our capstone class, she would get the top score and I would get the second," states Hung. "But it inspired me to do better."
The two's hard work has paid off. Both of them will graduate among the top of their class on Friday.
Chau's academic strengths landed her a part time job as a tutor for the University's Center for Academic Success. She tutors many Math and Business subjects, including Managerial Economics, Supply Chain Management and Finance, for which she is the center's only tutor.
"The staff and students [at the Center for Academic Success] are like family members," says Chau. "It's very easy to communicate with each other. It was a great decision to work here."
The siblings' family will be in attendance at their commencement ceremony on Friday, including their grandparents who have sponsored their studies and their parents who will be traveling from Vietnam to see them.
Chau and Hung are eager to enter the job force post-graduation and find jobs in their career field. Chau hopes to find a job at Clayton State and invest in the institution that invested in her.
"I like the environment at CSU," says Chau. "I've been looking for positions here in my academic field."
Hung is deciding between pursuing a career in Accounting and Supply Chain Management.
"I worked for three years in my country in the Supply Chain Management field," says Hung. "But taking the MBA program here made me very interested in Accounting and Finance. I'm going to talk to some professors to get advice on which career path I should pursue."
Hung and Chau have some advice of their own to give to current and future college students.
"Try your best and work your hardest at everything you do, whether it be your academic life or career," says Hung.
"Be prepared for everything," says Chau, "Don't procrastinate."