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Gwen's Rose: A UR Student's Journey To The Top 5 In "The Bachelor Vietnam"

By: Molly Brind'Amour, Staff Writer

Most students at University of Richmond can say they have pretty busy summers. But it’s safe to say no Spider has ever had a summer quite like Gwen Nguyen’s. Nguyen, a senior from Vietnam set to graduate in December 2019, spent her summer as a contestant on the Vietnamese edition of the famous reality show The Bachelor, as well as competing in a national beauty pageant and working an internship in the finance industry. “It was kind of lucky for me because everything fell into place really nicely,” Nguyen said. “So right after the Bachelor, I had some time to do my internship, and when my internship ended, I joined the beauty pageant. It worked out really well.”

Nguyen was one of 25 women competing for the heart of Quoc Trung Nguyen, the eligible bachelor leading Vietnam’s first season of the dating reality show. Like in the American version, the show is based on dates and rose ceremonies, where the number of women on the show are whittled down each episode until the bachelor is left with one woman – his true love. For Nguyen, the process managed to be both stressful and relaxing.

“Relaxing, in a way, because we went to all these beautiful places in Vietnam to film The Bachelor, staying in five-star resorts, and we have all the makeup artists and the stylists prepare the clothes for us, so it’s a really fancy lifestyle,” Nguyen said.“Stressful, because some girls are kind of hard to get along with, but some are really friendly. And also, I think the filming was really intense. We spent one month filming the whole show.” Shot entirely in July, the program’s filming time runs shorter than the roughly nine-week track of its American counterpart, which meant long days for the contestants.

“We started filming really early in the morning, and filmed until late at night, 1 or 2 a.m., sometimes 4 a.m.,” Nguyen said. “We filmed every single day during that one month.” For Nguyen, the worst part of the show was the emotional stress.

“Physical stress was kind of like figuring out whether you want to stay on, because in Vietnam, we get a chance to say no to the guy, when he gives out the rose,” Nguyen said. “So you don’t like him, you just say ‘I want to refuse the rose and I want to go home.’” In Nguyen’s case, with such a busy summer, that meant a lot of pressure, knowing that each day she stayed on would be another day she couldn’t start her internship. There was also pressure to move fast, in order to have a relationship strong enough to last another round of eliminations.

But the pressures, for Nguyen, were balanced out in part by new friendships and opportunities.

“The favorite part is probably getting to know everyone in the group, including some of the contestants,” Nguyen said. “They’re really nice, we’re still good friends.” Nguyen’s season on The Bachelor became international news when one of the female contestants on the show professed her love for another female contestant, an act that had never happened in the American version’s 22-season history.

On a Facebook post sharing the moment, Nguyen wrote, “Love really has no limit…Yes, the story is real, unstaged and the most moving thing to me throughout my experience there!”While she couldn’t disclose how far she made it in the show, Nguyen did admit that she made it “pretty far” before heading to her internship, at an investment banking firm in Vietnam.

A mathematics major, with minors in economics and visual and media arts practice, Nguyen’s passion for finance allowed her to really enjoy her internship. It’s an experience she’s hoping to replicate this summer, as she works on applications for one last summer internship.

Nguyen hopes to get a job in finance soon after her graduation in December 2019, potentially through a future internship.

“I also want to get my MBA and see how things go from there,” she said. Juggling diverse interests is nothing new to Nguyen. While hailing from Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen moved to Singapore for a competitive high school program. From there, she found out about University of Richmond from a friend, and was accepted into UR as an Artist Scholar, a designation of the Richmond Scholars program that requires submitting an arts portfolio.

Since arriving at UR, Nguyen has found many passions and opportunities, from STEM to painting, as her former roommate, senior Free Henderson, can attest. “I’ve seen her grow as a person, from freshman year to now,” Henderson said. “She used to be very quiet…once you got to know her, she blossomed.” Henderson and Nguyen met as roommates in their first year at the University of Richmond, both part of the Women in Science living learning community. Henderson has many positive memories of their time as roommates, and how Nguyen, a foodie, introduced her to all kinds of new foods, from sunflower tea to a Vietnamese salt seasoning.

Nguyen, who was involved with Residence Life, even wrote Henderson a letter of recommendation for her Resident Assistant position. Nguyen also got involved with campus by helping found Richmond’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Kappa, a sorority for women in STEM fields.

“She goes for what she wants,” Henderson remarked of her former roommate. “When she wants to do something, she does it.”

That’s certainly true for Nguyen’s experience with modeling, too. Motivated by pure curiosity, Nguyen went to Elite Model Management Vietnam after high school and soon signed with them. She was able to take a gap year after two years at Richmond, using the time to model for fashion brands and shoot TV commercials.

“I love it, I love being in front of the camera,” Nguyen said, laughing. But as for her future in the fashion industry, Nguyen isn’t so sure that path will fit well with her current aspirations.

“Not after graduation. Cause it’s like, if I wanted to go into that, I wouldn’t be able to do finance,” she explained. “You cannot choose everything.”

Henderson said, “I’ve always admired her for her ability to live in the now.” Right now, Nguyen said, her biggest challenge is getting back to the “college rhythm,” after her year off testing the waters of the finance and fashion worlds. But even as the routine of university life sets back in, Nguyen’s experience on The Bachelor will stick with her.

“That was something to remember for life.”

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