Sending your kids to the US for school? Stories from the ‘kids’ (part 3 of 3)

sequoia national park - © Anvi Hoàng

sequoia national park – © Anvi Hoàng

—– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —–

To balance out the story I have been presenting you, I am ending this series with the voices of the used-to-be ‘kids’ who came here to the US for school. Read their stories to find out what is happening to them right now or could be waiting for them at the end of this educational journey. The original responses were in English, unless noted otherwise.

Trieu-Man Truong, came to the US at grade 9, currently a college student.

1- Would you recommend your Vietnamese counterparts in the country to come to the US to study? Why or why not?

I would highly recommend my Vietnamese friends in Vietnam (or anyone else in any other country) to come to the US to study. From what I’ve been fortunate enough to see and experience, the US education system holds extraordinarily many opportunities for students to learn and develop. US colleges and universities also have some of the best facilities and technology for students.

2- What are the most valuable things you have learned in the US so far?  

Culture clash is real! Not everybody will understand how you think and you may not understand their ways either. Communication with your family back home is very important. Don’t completely change the ways you think and do things just to fit in better with others.

3- In your experience, what do you think Vietnamese students at home should prepare themselves before coming over here? 

Although it can be done, I highly recommend that students should not be under-prepared in their English skills before coming. It’s also a great idea to expect to be much more independent when you come. Everybody operates on their own agenda here, everybody is independent, so mostly everything is set up to be that way. Last but not least, be prepared to be exposed to a completely new yet absolutely exciting environment.

Phuong Khanh (first name), came to the US at grade 10, currently a high school student (responses in Vietnamese).

1- Would you recommend your Vietnamese counterparts in the country to come to the US to study? Why or why not? 

That depends on several factors, what the family’s financial situation is and more importantly whether the student really wishes to study abroad. If s/he does, s/he should think about the future when they go abroad to study. They should have a plan before making a decision.If the family can afford it and they really want to do it, I recommend coming to the US to study.

2- What are the temptations in the US and how do you deal with them or protect yourself from them to remain who you are?

I have not had much experience here but I noticed some students smoking shisha. This is bad for your health. To keep yourself from temptations, think about the consequences before you do something. Put yourself in your family’s position and see what they will think before you consider doing it or not.

3- What are the most valuable things you have learned in the US so far?  

To be honest, the most important and greatest lesson I have learned is “being away makes me realize how precious family is.” Times I miss my family the most are moments I recognize I should have treasured my time with my family. The second lesson is independence and strength to overcome difficulties that I did not know I have in me. Also, I learn new things about America.

4- In your experience, what do you think Vietnamese students at home should prepare themselves before coming over here?

Primarily, be prepared mentally and psychologically. When there is no family around, you should have skills to take care of yourself. You need a guardian in America to help with lodging and school. One thing equally important is tuition and other expenses. Prepare everything perfectly before you start the journey abroad.

Hai Ninh Nguyen (first name is Hai Ninh), came to the US at grade 12, currently working on a masters degree program.

1- Would you recommend your Vietnamese counterparts in the country to come to the US to study? Why or why not?

I would recommend my Vietnamese fellows to come to the US to study due to the following reasons:

– The learning environment is valuable. You get help from teachers outside the class. You get chances to present your ideas through presentations and public speaking. I doubt you will get them in Vietnam

– Independence. You will get to learn how to live on your own, to cook, to do your own laundry.

2- What are the temptations in the US and how do you deal with them or protect yourself from them to remain who you are?

There are several things that a Vietnamese student may be tempted to do:

– Eating instant noodle only due to lack of cooking skills. It is important to learn how to cook in Vietnam to avoid this. Eating instant noodle does not provide you enough nutrition to function throughout the day. I learnt this the hard way.

– Assuming that everything you learn from American culture is good. Keep good Vietnamese culture values while adopt good aspects about American culture such as maintaining eye contact while talking, keeping a good posture while eating, be hygiene, and so on.

–  For those who are coming to stay with their relatives or close friends, speak Vietnamese less when you are at home. I am not saying you should not, but since you are coming here to study English, speak English. After you got good at communicating in English, you can speak Vietnamese anytime you want.

3- What are the most valuable things you have learned in the US so far? 

I learnt to be independent.

4- In your experience, what do you think Vietnamese students at home should prepare themselves before coming over here? 

One of the most important things I was struggling the most with was to speak and understand the native speakers when I came here for my first year. So, practicing speaking English with your English teachers, and try to watch more English shows. Also, be prepare to learn about the culture since it can be quite challenging at first. Lastly, learn how to cook from your parents because you will have do your own cooking when you come here.

N., came to the US for college, got a masters degree, currently working in the US.

1- Would you recommend your Vietnamese counterparts in the country to come to the US to study? Why or why not?

It depends on the students. They should answer to themselves why they’d like to study abroad. I have never encouraged anyone that I know to go study in the U.S regardless of their educational records or family’s financial strength. I’d like to approach them and their parents with an explorative discussion about their current education circumstance and their interests on studying abroad topic. One thing I always give people a head up when discussing this topic, please be prepare to sacrifice everything you might be enjoying in Vietnam when you first come to the U.S.

If the student has an aspiring character, I’ll recommend them to pursue higher education and a career path in the U.S because this is the great environment for both personal and career growth (please keep in mind there is no guarantee for success). For unsure ones, I’ll recommend them to perform a self-reflection to figure their deep-inside desire of their future before offering my recommendations. For those interested in finance, materiality and reputation only, I would recommend that they might be better off with their current situations. Studying abroad is not for everybody.

In my experience, only the aspiring ones will be able to endure all challenges along the way to finally achieve what they always aspire. Looking back at that point, while their families believe that the U.S education is the right investment, the time spent learning and maturing in the US is a great chapter in life journeys to them.

(Just a side note, more than half of Vietnamese international students that I know during my college years went back to Vietnam right after graduation (with no working experience and advanced education). Some tried to stay for advanced education and job opportunities, but went back to Vietnam after all due to no job offer. Only 4-5 of about 15 of these students stay in the US as either H1B worker (all has masters degrees) or PH.D. candidate. I had met and worked with 3 students or their parents on US high school education plan. I recommended one to come to the US for high school and above, one to stay in Vietnam and the last one is my younger sister. She has no choice but to come to the US since high school, so we just work on finding and unleashing her aspiring personality)

2- What are the temptations in the US and how do you deal with them or protect yourself from them to remain who you are?

In my opinion, studying abroad is a major life turning point often causing psychological imbalance. Those that can afford studying broad don’t lack of materiality. They’re craving for emotional support and the same environment they used to have in their hometown in which friends, companions and families are always around. What people might consider temptations can simply be ways international students choose to cope with language barriers, cultural shock and loneliness.

Party, games, casino, or anything else one can think of as a way to get out of the harsh reality of studying abroad can be called temptations. If those ways are constructive, we will view them as normal. If those ways are destructive, we will perceive them as temptations. Regardless of what they are, the importance is to learn how to turn one’s temptation addiction into something useful.

Temptations tend to easily take up all time and effort of the followers. If only they realize that passion also takes up all time and effort, they can cross the fine line to transfer all time and effort spent for temptations into a passion to sharpen a useful skill.

Interestingly, I think a destructive person tends to have an equal or even greater chance of success than an average “good” person if they know how to turn their destructive passion into their own competitive advantage. Temptation provides them with more daring power for risk. Thus, they might become more experienced with well-rounded knowledge on a subject matter than anyone else. Some IRS specialist might have the background of a white-collar criminal. Some financial analysts or private equity managers might used to be a heavy gambler in the past.

After all, in my opinion, the kinds and types of temptations are not important as long as the students know how to turn their temptation addiction into a passion to strengthen a skill or become a subject matter expert, and temptations are not something one should be worried about. It might be even good to get exposed to temptation if that is what it takes to explore one’s passion and special talent.

3- What are the most valuable things you have learned in the US so far?

– Success is when opportunity meets preparation (so please don’t believe only smart OR lucky people will succeed in life).

– Employer would never ask for candidate’s grades in high school, college or masters program if they see a masters degree listed on the resume.

– Failing in schools in Vietnam doesn’t mean you are not fit for education in the U.S. Vietnamese students are often intimidated by the selection process through tests or entrance exams. It is not the case in the U.S. Higher education is nationwide encouraged, not limited for the privileged only since good educator should be able to train anyone, not just the top of the class that has to be selected through exam.

4- In your experience, what do you think Vietnamese students at home should prepare themselves before coming over here?

  • English speaking and listening skills
  • English writing skill can also be helpful
  • Being mentally prepared to endure cultural shocks, loneliness, and schooling struggles.
  • Being open-minded to adapt to new culture, new habits and new traditions. (Sometimes, this also means whatever their parents or grandparents taught then will no longer hold true).

–> Read the Vietnamese version

Part 1: Sending your kids to the US for school? Check out Nina Nhung Hoang’s tips for Vietnamese parents

Part 2: Sending your kids to the US for school? Team Nina Nhung Hoang and Glen Tatum’s tips for Vietnamese parents

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