As my graduation is approaching in a few short weeks, it finally hits me that I’m about to reach another milestone in my life. It’s almost time for me to join the rest of my fellow citizens to the “real” world. Last time, I freaked out and fled abroad for a year and a half. Though I had the time of my life, I don’t think that’ll happen again this time around. I believe I’m ready to take the next step. Looking back, I had a pretty darn great education; not only that, it’s far from being typical.
I grew up in Vietnam ‘til I was 13 then I moved to US starting at eighth grade. I know what you’re thinking, but I promise it’s not one those upcoming immigrant story. I was expecting a fun and eventful high school experience like most of my peers; little that I know, I was about to set course for an unexpected spiral of opportunities.
Beginning spring semester of my ninth grade, my school district was recruiting students for a new pilot charter program for the following fall. After I took a long hard thought ( which involves me applying then withdraw then reapply a few times), I decided to take on the challenge. The program composed of full integration of an Associate degree into a high school diploma. It’s quite academic intensive and there wasn’t many extracurricular activities (if any). However, the program was fully funded by the state and school district, which means I was getting my first two years of college free of charge.
Three years forward, I graduated with my Associate degree transferring an impressive 79 credit hours. College was next. Due to many reasons, I chose to transfer to University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) instead of Colombia College Chicago. Life would have been much different but I don’t regret. I met many wonderful people and had great opportunities.
After my first year at UTSA, to be closer to family and gain some experience, I did a summer internship in Vietnam. At the end of that summer, I realized that I was graduating with my Bachelor degree at 20 and I would have to find a job and be an adult. I was petrified.
Remembering back to my 18 birthday, I wrote a letter to myself to read 10 years later. I recalled one of the item on the list was doing at least a semester abroad. With the stage I was in, I thought it would be a great excuse to escape everything and stall out my graduation. That one extended semester turned into four semesters. I jumped a few hoops and mountains to make that first semester abroad in Florence, Italy happen. That, then, followed by a year of exchange in Hong Kong before I returned to UTSA.
Echo back to that time, I probably grew up the most. I learnt many things along the way. I learnt who I am, what I want and need. I learnt how to appreciate other people, culture, and their way of living/thinking. I learnt what it means to value my culture and heritage, and the important of reserving that as part of my identity. Additionally, I learnt how to communicate, how to navigate, how to enjoy life, and how to be hopeful. As I passed by each of those destinations, I saw the wonderful things around the world and how many opportunities there are if I just open to them.
This brings me to today. It’s been a rough year adjusting back to reality. I struggled to fit myself back into the society mold. Hence, it was important for me to reflex back to my non-traditional experience and find a way to correspond them to others. With a lot of support and help, I am now ready.
As my job search continues and deems to be frustrated, I remain hopeful for the future. Like I always preach: “Life always has a way of resolve its problem.” Good luck to my fellow graduate, Class of 2014. ‘Til next time.