Vong realizes dream of a U.S. education
When Tatiana Vong was just 18 years old, she found herself in a challenging situation. She had no job or place to live and didn’t speak English.
Vong, who will be graduating magna cum laude Dec. 19 with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in project management, had moved to the United States from Batir, Moldova through a visa exchange program.
After working a week in Pensacola, Fla., she and another woman placed in the same job through the program decided to pursue better options and took a bus to Orlando.
With little money and resources, they needed to find housing and employment. Luckily, they met a family at a grocery store who let them live with them temporarily until they got on their feet.
Vong not only found her way, she started taking classes at Valencia College and got her real estate license. Shortly afterward, she landed a sales executive job with Marriott Vacation Club and won the Sapphire Award in her first year. For the following 10 years, Vong continued to achieve consistent sales with the Club within different departments.
“I have always loved to learn,” said Vong, who is currently a project management intern with PBSC’s Information Technology department. “In Moldova, it’s very hard to find a job other than a labor job, but I have always desired to work with my mind.”
Vong met her husband, Andrew, while working in Orlando. They eventually moved to south Florida so he could study pharmacy at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Having had a good experience at Valencia, she decided to continue her classes at Palm Beach State.
“Sales and marketing was a great job, but I wanted to pursue a degree,” Vong said. “I really wanted to have a lifetime of increased opportunities to land more jobs, where I could collaborate and lead more other than in sales and marketing departments.”
Vong eventually earned an Associate in Arts degree and decided to stay at the College to get a bachelor’s in project management. While in the program one of her professors, Hector Hernandez, recommended her for a student panel to discuss the College’s service desk at a Team Dynamix summit in Miami. During the summit Ken Libutti, chief information officer, approached her and offered her a paid internship with the department.
“The internship is the best thing that could have happened to me as a student,” Vong said. “It has helped me so much in understanding how to apply what I’ve learned to a real job.”
Vong says that the networking opportunities and professors at PBSC are what has made her college experience so rewarding.
“There are so many opportunities to connect with people and the professors are amazing, especially Professor Hernandez. I took 80 percent of my classes with him and he always gave real-life examples directly linked to what I was studying. He was also always motivating and encouraging us and giving us the latest news and trends in the project management field.”
With her degree and internship experience, Vong, now 32, is hoping to get employed full time soon after graduation.
Her parents, who live in a village in Moldova and only recently got running water in their small home, are happy that their daughter got a bachelor’s degree, something they always wished for their children.
“My parents are very proud of me, and I owe so much to Palm Beach State in helping me reach my goals.”