Hometown: Greece. Originally from Vietnam
It takes approximately twenty-seven hours to fly from Vietnam to New York if you exclude the draining layovers at about two or three other airports. I remember the first time landing in Rochester, it was one in the morning. Not until I was sitting in a car traveling past green traffic signs on the expressway to my first host home, it didn’t truly hit me that I have left my home of sixteen years, which was till then, the home of my whole life.
I hardly slept that night.
Who would I be without the monsoon rain and the tropical sun?
Who would I be if I don’t get to speak my vibrant language?
Who would I be if they don’t understand me?
My sixteen-year-old self struggled with whether I belonged and was fearful of the inability to reestablish a decent identity. But later on, I learned that it shouldn’t have been a concern. When moving into a new environment, it is natural to ask yourself: Who am I now? Who shall I be? However, the answer was never completely a new personae but simply developments on the core personality of the past.
I spent so much effort to perfect my accent, to immediately sound like a native speaker. I would get so embarrassed mispronouncing a word, I would get frustrated with myself when I can’t find the right way to describe my thoughts, I would slowly become quieter and petty, offended, I would hold quite a grudge when friends made fun of my mistakes.
Eventually, I learned that it wasn’t my problem that those couldn’t take me seriously. I voiced myself. I displayed to them the quality of my personality. It was their choice to concentrate on the execution and reject the content. Of course, both of such elements are important; but the point is that one should never blame themselves for being who they are and expressing it even with imperfection. Self-acceptance and appreciation do not always come instantly when you first needed it. But once that revelation is found, flourishing will happen as naturally as an impromptu.
I took another step toward self-love.
Sometimes when I felt lost and estranged with the presence, such times when there was a difficult decision to make- when I did not know what I ought to do, I would often say: just do whatever and be whoever your future self would fall in love with.
Upstate New York is mellow, it felt so unconnected to the land I was born and raised in. Yet it was New York (or it was America) that brought me to new relationships, added more serenity to my impulsive nature, and matured me.
When I flew back to Vietnam that same year, as soon as I saw the coast of Indochina, I knew it was possible to fall in love with a place. Especially one where you get to grow and be embraced. Vietnam was my first love. I was eager to have the humid wind caress me again, to hear my vibrant mother tongue spoken with distinct rhyme, and to reminisce about me of the past.
Why did you change your major?
I changed my major because I realized I was not passionate with my former major and did not see myself exalting in the general field. Instead my current major gives me more ambition and is personally intriguing.
What helped you to make your decision?
What helped me to make my decision was mostly spending a lot of time researching on my choices and confronting myself. For example, looking into the curriculum, textbooks, and how the program track goes as well as what are possible choices after graduation- planning ahead was helpful. The Myers-Briggs test. Besides that, looking for references from friends was actually very helpful especially ones who already know what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it.
What advice would you give to students who are undecided about their majors?
My advice is to reach out to anybody that could give you advice and never be intimidated by not having anything figured out yet, this is not a race. Do not make your decision based on what you are, or might be, good at; but do based on what you would be willing to work through despite discouragement. Find where you would look forward to improving. Find a field where you don’t just sit and listen and do what you are instructed to but somewhere you are urged to say something in class, do something in life, contribute. And most importantly remember that nothing would go to waste, so do not be afraid of “wasting your time”.