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Corner Brook restaurant owner getting set to become a Canadian citizen

Thy Nguyen is the owner of the Pho Vietnam restaurant in Corner Brook and on Tuesday she’ll become a Canadian citizen.
Thy Nguyen is the owner of the Pho Vietnam restaurant in Corner Brook and on Tuesday she’ll become a Canadian citizen. - Diane Crocker

Nearly eight years ago Thy Nguyen left her home in Can Tho, Vietnam to move to Canada.

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She settled in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program. The program required her to stay in the Prairie province for three years in order to acquire permanent resident status. During that time all she did was work.

“I worked three, four jobs,” she said.

That meant she had no time to get to know the city, or how people lived or to learn English.

And Nguyen wanted more for herself.

“I wanted to open a small business.”

She didn’t want to do it in Saskatoon, so she took the Internet and spotted an advertisement on Kijiji for a restaurant for rent in Corner Brook.

She made contact with the woman who posted the ad and decided to make the move. She packed all her worldly possessions into her SUV and blindly headed out across the country.

“But I had no idea about Newfoundland.”

With Google Maps guiding her way she drove for six days, not knowing where she’d end up, but she had a goal.

She knew she had to look for something more.

“Something awaiting you in the future,” she said.

When she arrived in Corner Brook in late 2013 there were no other Vietnamese people here.

She went ahead with her plan and opened Pho Vietnam on Humber Road, but a few months in issues with the building forced her to close.

By then Nguyen had built up a following in the city and with support from the community was able to find a new location. Pho Vietnam reopened in the Colemans building on Caribou Road in April 2014.

As she sat in the empty restaurant prior to opening one morning earlier this week, Nguyen recalled her early days in the city. She was lonely as she got her business established and had her father travel from Vietnam to help her for a few months.

Her English skills were not the best.

“But people here were very nice.”

Talking with her customers helped her to learn the language. And she also was able to connect with a tutor through the Association for New Canadians.

“Step by step I get better,” she said with a smile.

Over the past five years Corner Brook has found a place in her heart

 “This city now everybody loves me and loves my food and I’m OK with my business here. I don’t want to move anywhere,” said Nguyen.

“I found my second home here and my second country here.”

She’s also found another kind of love here and just over a year and half ago got married.

Along with her husband, Jerry George, Nguyen enjoys getting out on weekly adventures, no matter the season, to see and experience all that she can.

While she is settled here there is something that has been missing, and that’s been becoming a Canadian citizen.

It’s something Nguyen has wanted to do for a while, but the restaurant has kept her pretty busy.

But after months of studying for her citizenship exam she’s ready to make it happen.

“I can’t wait,” she said.

She’s been studying a lot of hours and brings her materials to work with her. She can often be seen looking at the materials in a corner or with her books and computer set up on a table.

“It’s very important for me,” she said.

She said it brings freedom and the ability to travel where you want.

But above all it will make her “the same as everybody,” she said.

“If you have citizenship it’s better for you.”

Nguyen will take the citizenship exam on Monday and fingers crossed, if all goes well, she’ll take the oath of citizenship during a ceremony at Corner Brook City Hall on Tuesday.

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