There was a girl who didn't take studying very seriously, slept through all her classes, and decided that she wanted to study in America just three months before the college admission deadline was closed. Seventeen. She was afraid of letting her family down if she failed to pass the national university entrance exam in Vietnam, which only happened once a year… Welp, she did still have to take the exam and got a grade that was surprisingly high enough for one of the top universities back home, but that was all memorizing power and pure magic.
There was a girl who hated being told what to do and if she was told to do something, she would always do the opposite. Before booking her first flight tickets to America, she was reminded multiple times to double-check the arrival information from the school, but she didn’t bother questioning herself even for a split second. As it turned out, she completely messed up her ‘supposed-to-be-picked-up’ date, and her school was in upstate New York where it was impossible to get a cab at the time, yet her ego was too big to admit that she was wrong. Without telling anyone, she did research on hotels that didn't require proof of age, booked a room for herself alone in a country where she knew nobody, then waited there until the school shuttle arrived to pick her up to campus the next day… She kept this secret for eight years.
There was a girl who felt like she never fit in and doubted if she was ever enough — not Vietnamese enough, not American enough, not pretty enough, not brainy enough, not a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g enough. Not so great, but it certainly pushed her to work harder and be better. She didn’t know where she belonged, so she started creating and building her own ideal world, hoping maybe she could help someone else out there also feel seen and heard. The very first club she founded in her freshman year of college was the International Club to bring people together while fostering and celebrating diversity and cultures around the world. She loved making people feel like they belonged… and she knew that was the one place where she felt like she belonged, too.
Today officially marks a decade since I first arrived in America — I still can’t believe how a last-minute decision would turn out to be quite a lifetime journey! And yes, that girl was me. Still stubborn, but thankfully more responsible. Still don’t feel like I’m good enough, but thankfully realize that I’m enough. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for everything that has happened and for every person who has made an impact on me along the way. It’s been a crazy, wonderful ride with countless ups and downs and powerful personal transformations constantly intertwined in such a short space of time that sometimes it still feels like everything was just a dream.
My journey to the West definitely started on quite an interesting note and is to be continued… but a decade has gone by and it’s been a decade of restlessly weathering the storm, building, and living my dream life. x