A casual boat ride on Lake Michigan during International Family Orientation stirred up a tidal wave of connections for Hope College students.

Dann and Que-Lan Engels, who have close ties as Hope parents, extended hospitality to international families during orientation by inviting them for a ride on their boat to explore Lake Macatawa and take in a famous Lake Michigan sunset.

As they introduced their international guests to Michigan’s water wonderland, the Engelses especially connected with Tuan Trinh. He had traveled from Vietnam with his daughter, Anh Trinh ’18, to settle her at Hope for her freshman year.

Dann and Que-Lan, with her Vietnamese heritage, especially connected with Trinh. The couple assured the devoted dad that they would look after his daughter when he returned to Vietnam, where he works for the United Nations in Hanoi.

As time passed, the connection between the Engels and Trinh families grew, along with Trinh’s relationship to Hope College. Eventually, Trinh helped a Hope classics major set up a study abroad stint in Vietnam.

The study abroad connection led to Trinh inviting then Dean of Social Sciences Scott VanderStoep and history professor Fred Johnson to Vietnam. During their visit, they discussed the creation of a May Term in Vietnam for Hope students. Trinh’s association with the United Nations paved the way for various groups of students to travel to Vietnam for enriching cultural and educational experiences during their May terms. As an added benefit, local Vietnamese students also learned more about Hope College.

Several trips followed, where Hope students and other campus leaders participated in regional events, meeting with prospective students and college recruiters. During these opportunities for engagement, parents who had participated in IFO and their students shared about their Hope College experiences, answering many questions and sharing about what life is like in Southwest Michigan.

During the 2023-24 school year, five students from Vietnam were enrolled at Hope.

“It’s been a thrill ride to see these connections and the far-reaching impact of International Family Orientation,” enthused Jim VanHeest, a program organizer. “I could go on and on about the wonderful benefits to the students, their families and Hope College.”

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