Going Against The Grain: Thoa Nguyen (2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner)


2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Thoa Nguyen

18 year-old Thoa Nguyen was born in Hue, Vietnam.  In 1996, her family (including herself, her parents and older sister) immigrated to America when she was three years-old. After living in Arkansas with her grandparents for six months, the family moved to Arlington, Texas. The family experienced culture shock, but the opportunity to pursue the American Dream was a dream come true.

Although the language barrier was initially an issue, school quickly became one of Thoa’s strengths. She challenged herself, taking advanced classes whenever possible, as well as courses that interested her artistically. After stints in choir, band and theatre, she found her passion for studio art.  She served as Vice President and then President of her school’s National Art Honor Society, Vice President of the National Honor Society, Historian of the Drama Club, was a Project SOAR mentor and part of the International Thespian Society, Environmental Club and Future Business Leaders of America. She recently graduated from Juan Seguin High School ranked number three in her class. Thoa plans to study Radio/Television/Film as well as Studio Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Full name:

Thoa Thi Kim Nguyen


Born in Hue, Vietnam but I consider my ” hometown” to be Arlington, Texas

Current City:

Arlington, TX



What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

To me, ‘going against the grain’ is synonymous to swimming against a current, doing what your heart tells you to do, despite what is expected. By pushing yourself to reach your goals no matter the circumstances or resistance, you are going against that opposing force. We would not be where we are now if minorities throughout history had not conformed and sparked revolutions. Like they say, ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way,’ even against the grain.

How do you go against the grain?

I believe that the most important characteristic to be able to go against the grain would be courage. It takes a lot of courage to STAND UP for your ideals when everyone else is sitting. I’d also have to say that it has taken me my entire life so far to earn that courage. I go against the grain by putting full faith and spirit into what I have realized I want to do for the rest of my life: incorporate my art with my love for film(making). Any person with traditional Asian parents can agree that they want the best for their children’s futures, which means they expect us to be in high paying career like medical or engineering fields. Having come from an immigrant family, I was expected to earn outstanding grades, then pack my bags for medical school. To my parents dismay, I had no interest in such fields… I had my heart set on being an art director for film. Although it may not seem like much, it took me my entire life to figure that out. To stand behind what I was passionate about, even if it was not what was expected of me. To have courage.


On the importance of art to a community: (excerpted from scholarship essay)

“If there were a few imperishable and infinite things in this world, art would be one of them. Art takes so many forms and is perceived by so many perspectives that it can never be nonexistent.  Lucky for us, as human beings, we need it in our world to survive. It is a wonder that something that can be seen as trivial and even unnecessary and impractical, is so embedded into ourselves, we almost forget it is there, if it were not for the people who express it so well. Art is soul, and life, and presence, and void. It is what adds color to our world, our community, and our being.”

What made you decide to pursue a career in film (art direction)?
Film production has always been interesting to me, and I believe that you should pursue a field that provokes your curiosity and interest for it. And with my art skills and creativity as a precursor, I want to associate that with film production to be an art director for film.


What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?
It is not a common field for an Asian American (especially an Asian American with traditional parents) to pursue, so the toughest challenge is proving myself based on my passion and skill, not my race, to every one else. Something that I’ve learned is to do what suits me, no matter what any one else says, and do it well to the best of my ability, because it does reflect on my culture and where I come from.


What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?
My greatest accomplishment would probably be making it in my graduating class’ Top 2 % and being ranked number three. I know how proud that makes my parents and that all the hard work I have put into my studies for the past four years in high school was with that goal in mind.


What’s up next?
The great, scary, life changing experience called ”college” is next for me! I’m so excited to be in a new city, surrounded by the immense creative atmosphere that UT will offer me!


Quote to live by:
”It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” – Albert Einstein


Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Rooster/Scorpio


Passionate about: All forms of visual arts; learning


Favorite food: Barbecue chicken!


Can’t live without: My best friend and future roomate, Alexa Harrington


What it means to you to be named the 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner:  
“It means the most to me spiritually. It’s a sign of reassurance that what I am doing will be worth it in the end, because someone out there believes in me.”


To read more about Thoa, visit the  2012 ATG Scholarship Finalist Announcement.
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