Thao Tran’s Story
As retold by Mackenzie Kato
I have always known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. Go to school, get good grades, go to a good college, and then get a well-paying career in the medical field. That was the easy part about coming to America. I even had aunts and cousins that could help me when I got there. The hard part, on the other hand, was leaving everything that I was used to in Vietnam. My family was there as well as all my friends and everything that I had grown up loving. But America has always been known for its overwhelming
opportunity and striving education system. That is why as soon as I decided what I wanted to do as a career, I knew that I needed to move.
Making friends and having relationships made it ten times harder for me because I knew I was going to be leaving for America at some point. Although I was moving across the country, my parents were never upset or worried about me leaving Vietnam. They knew that it was important for me to follow my dreams and get the best out of my education. Of course, I knew
that they would miss me all the time and wished that I was at home with them, but I haven’t, not for a minute, regretted coming to America and being a part of the country, cultures, and opportunities it offers.
When coming to America for the first time, I was given the ability to test the waters, and see if this country was the right fit for me. I came to Wisconsin on a summer intern program to work and experience the American culture as an employee at one of the local water parks. Through that experience, I met friends and learned English far better than the basic understanding that I had.
After just a few weeks in Wisconsin, I knew that America was a perfect fit for me and the lifestyle I wanted out of life. I loved the opportunities I was given to speak my mind without being judged, and not to mention the amazing malls that offered amazing shopping for clothes, food, and anything else I could possibly need or want. After the intern program was done and it was time for me to decide what steps to take next. Initially, it was an easy choice to go to Flint where an aunt and some of my cousins had been living.
Coming to Michigan was a long journey of bus trips and short naps that were interrupted by bumpy roads and loud chatter. However, when I finally arrived in Flint, the town seemed barren and used, like people had taken all it had to offer and then left it stranded. I became easily bored, moving from a populated town in Vietnam, and the Dells of Wisconsin, where everything was constantly moving and there was always something to do, to Flint. Flint appeared to lack places for young people to
interact, or attract tourists. It lacked things like amusement parks, famous restaurants, and game centers that were so prominent in Wisconsin.
I am making a routine that I follow every day, and usually don’t tend to trail very far off the path when going through my day. Originally, it was hard knowing that all my friends and my social life were left
behind. As a replacement, I have filled my time studying for biochemistry and organic-chemistry.
Occasionally, I will spend the weekend working at the nail salon where my aunt and cousins work in order to save money to pay off school. Slowly, I have started to make friends through study groups and class lectures that have helped make school and free time easier. Although I sometimes I long for the friends I related to so much in Vietnam, I am thankful for the chance I have to come to a country that is exploding with new opportunities at every turn. I am thankful for the places I’ve visited since coming to
America, and I know that I will always have a home here in Flint, the place that has given me a true example of the struggle and prosperity that is possible in America.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.