Homeless for A Semester to a United Nations Intern to a Harvard Graduate

Vannary Kong

‘’Ever since she I was five years old, my dream was to always work in the United Nations.’’

Let’s say, ever since Kong started to go to school she has been working her way up. Boss lady Kong was born in Frenso, California and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kong received her calling when she was five years old, around the time when she was started to conceptualize themes such as political corruption, war, inequality, and human rights. Growing up within a mixed race background, Kong was able to learn to conceptualize and balance multiple cultures.

‘’I grew up learning how to balance being multi-racial, particularly from an inter-religious background. My biological father and step-father derive from Louisiana French Creole and African American descent, and my step-mother is from the Lakota Tribe in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. My mother practices Theravada Buddhism, my biological father belongs to the Nation of Islam, and my step-father and stepmother are both Roman Catholic.’’

Kong’s journey to Harvard University all started when she was homeless for a semester and ended up interning for the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

‘’I honestly did not think I was good enough to be at Harvard. However, for some reason, intrinsically, in my spirit, something kept telling me that I belonged there.’’

Kong is a recent Harvard Graduate Scholar, Civil Servant and an Ambassador. Her story is inspiring and one of a kind. 

Women On Topp spoke with Kong about her United Nations internship and her journey to Harvard University as an incredibly motivated woman. 

You spent a semester in NY at the UN as an intern with the division for public administration an development management. Department of economic and social affairs. 

WOT: Tell us where did your interest for the United Nations come from?

KONG: I received my calling when I was five years old, around the time when I was started to conceptualize themes such as political corruption, war, inequality, and human rights. Growing up within a mixed race background, I was able to learn to conceptualize and balance multiple cultures. 

Over time, I began an interest in international relations even in elementary and middle school. My first career endeavor is to become a United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations. As a representative of the free world, I feel like it is my obligation to help developing countries progress towards economic self-sufficiency and uphold international human rights. My second goal is to serve as a judge in the International Courts of Justice. I want to be able to deliver justice to people involved with war crimes and genocide as an effort to eliminate political corruption. My ultimate end goal is to become the first American United Nations Secretary-General. I want to advocate for indigenous rights and the progression of the United Nations Sustainable and Millennium Goals. 

History Made: 1st Afro-Asian to walk in the IUPUI Celebration of Asian/Asian American Pacific Islander Graduates!

In the article ‘On path to a career in international engagement, IUPUI student becomes UN intern’ it states you had three jobs to make ends meet all while going to school full time. 

WOT: How did you manage to have these 3 jobs and how did you plan your time wisely? Was there a time you wanted to give up working towards your goals?

KONG: There was a point during my college career where I was homeless and had very little to live on. At the time I was working as a Diversity Ambassador for the Office of Access and Achievement within the Office of Admissions at my university IUPUI. I was also working for the Boys and Girls Club of Indianapolis as an afterschool counselor. I was in charge of 15-second graders at the Indianapolis Public School Jonathan Jennings School Number 109. I was deemed with the tasks of helping to bring their reading scores up to level. I was also interning at Indiana State House in the Department of Education under Superintendent Glenda Ritz. I always made sure that I prioritize what was most important and learned how to break up my time to make sure I got the work done. There were many times where I wanted to give up but I had a really great support system. I had many great mentors who encouraged me. My mentors were: Que Wimberly, David Heard, Cassaundra Williams, Kim Stewart-Brinston, Jatona Patton, LeNina Parham, Christina McCoy, Daniel Krouse, Avis Friesen, Jeanette El. I had a really great group of friends also. If it wasn’t for Brittany Paddy, Debbie Ruiz, Kel Raines, Taylor Harris, LaCrai, Latasha Hammond, Vanessa N, Angelina, Courtney Carpentar, Symphanie Bolds, Bri Reynolds, Benny Kauyza. Nargiza, Shawnya, Porshea Gregory, Tia Charlton, Sierra Justice, and Efrain Alvarado, and many others I probably would not have made it through. 

WOT: What has this period of working hard, taught you the most? 

KONG: I have learned so much in this period of my life. The first lesson is to have faith in God. Honestly, if it was not for my strong faith to lean on to get me through all the through all my trials and tribulations. The second lesson that I learned was to ‘trust your dopeness.’ What I mean about this is whatever trail you go through in life, you are fully equipped to tackle any situation you just need to trust yourself. I know personally, I have literally done the impossible. It all seems impossible until it is done. I also learned to be reliant and even more independent with myself. Going through trails and tribulations teaches an individual to be resourceful. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that when you do not have support from the sources you expect it the most (i.e. your family) the support and help that is needed will come from the most expecting sources. Ultimately, I learned to follow my heart and my dreams even if it leads to tribulations because in the end, it all works out. 

WOT: And what’s the one thing you have learned from the United States you would like to share that no one knows about? 

KONG: Systematic racism is very real and exists in the United States culture. The American Dream is portrayed on society and is attainable. Limitations are always put on people of color and minorities. However, do not let the barriers of systematic racism and tribulations hinder the potential success that will come at the end of the journey. All the struggles and social implication put on an individual due to their identitiy, social, and economic class will be more memorable because one will appreciate all the struggles with the reward. 

You must be proud that you got accepted to the Harvard University. Your efforts and passion has paid off. Hard work isn’t over.

WOT: How did you feel when you got an acceptance letter from Havard University?

KONG: I was honestly very shocked and at the same time very happy. I cried and screamed, it was an emotional experience. My Undergraduate studies took longer than normal and originally I was looking at other school to pursue my Post-Graduate degrees. I remember looking back and seeing everything that I went through and accomplished. Now I am just very thankful and happy that I was able to pursue my education at Harvard University. 

WOT: What path has taken you to apply to Harvard Universityy? Has it been something you have always wanted and dreamed of? 

KONG: Well my journey to Harvard University has been interesting. It all started when I was homeless for a semester and ended up interning for the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. I ended up getting connected with a couple of United Nations Civil Societies where I was collaborating and working on a couple of international sustainable development projects and opportunities. During the weekend of October 21, 2017, which also happened to be my birthday weekend, I was actually planning on attend Howard University’s homecoming with a my friend Taylor. At the same time, an opportunity came up for me to raise money for an organization I was working for Cambodia to build a Boarding School for Girls. The Resolution Project was hosting the Igniting Social Innovation Summit at Harvard University.

On my birthday weekend I ended up working to present at Harvard Univeristy to represent an international organization based in Cambodia. I was not only competing for $3,000 for the organization to change thousands of young girls lives in Cambodia, but I was also competing to become a Resolutions Fellow. The Fellowhship has a mentorship opportunities and other benefits that would have contributed towards my career. Within the competition, I ended up making to the Semi-finals of the competition. While at the conference, I ended making some friends at Harvard University. One of my friends, Ike, kept encouraging me to think about applying to Harvard. I honeslty did not think I was good enough to be at Harvard. However, for some reason, intrinsically, in my spirit, something kept telling me that I belonged there. When I came back to Indianapolis, I checked out a couple of the programs offered at Harvard and sent out an email to the Dean of the Program. The Dean took an interests in me and personally called my cell phone and recruited me for the program. I turned in my application and ended up getting in! 

A lot of girls are dreaming of going to Harvard university. 

WOT: What’s the best advice you can give to any girl who wants to apply to Harvard university? What are the 3 success factors you need to have to get accepted to Harvard University?

KONG: The best advice I can give towards any girls who wants to apply to Harvard University is to really market yourself to where Harvard looks at your application as if the school needs you. At the end of the day, Harvard is not only looking for good students, the school is looking at leaderships within the community and on campus. Harvard is ultimately looking for students who are well rounded. 

From UN Intern to Harvard University

WOT: What’s next? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Would you like to work for UN again?

KONG: Before officially attending Harvard to pursue my Master’s Program, I will be participating in the United Nations Summer Intensive Program through Seton Hall University for more experience working in International Diplomacy. Within five years I will have my Master’s, Law, and PhD degree from Harvard University. I have a couple of international projects that are currently in the planning stages right now that I would like to implement. I am working on expanding on the water sports training center in Vietnam that I am working with along with increasing economic development in developing countries. My plan is to ultimately go back and work for the United Nations. We will just have to see where the journey takes me! 

You mentioned you want to pursue career international foreign policy

WOT: Why where did you get your motivation from?

KONG: The reason why I am motivated is due to the fact that my family has sacrificed and fought so hard to even come to the United States for better opportunity. As the first generation American, it is my obligation and duty to give back and pursue a career for international diplomacy to ensure that human rights is being maintained and given to places needed the most. I know from a personal standpoint, my family was very blessed to stay together and receive a lot of aid during the Khmer Rouge War. I want to be able to give back to the community since those same resources were offered to my family. 

 

Best wishes for wonderful college years ahead. It is a proud moment for you as your hard work has paid off.

 

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