Chi Tiet’s Story
As retold by Kelsie Rose
I was 23 with my life figured out. I was living in Vietnam with my family and recently graduated college with a degree in archives. I was on track for a great life with a great career. But, something was missing. A job. I couldn’t get one. Even with my degree and skills, there weren’t any job opportunities available in my field.
A couple years back I had spent a few months in the United States working and gathering experience. I had enjoyed my time and stay in America. I even knew a few people that had successfully moved there and gotten jobs. The education and career possibilities made me want to move there. After researching the education system and figuring out a plan, I discussed the possibility of moving with my parents. They were reluctant about having me live so far away, they supported my decision to better myself and they helped me prepare to move.
In order for me to relocate to America, I had to go through an American embassy in Vietnam. While there, they had to perform background checks and fill out lots of paperwork. I passed every test with flying colors, but something was missing. An exact plan of where I’m going to live. I hadn’t thought this far ahead. I remembered a friend that had moved from Vietnam to San Francisco, California a few years ago. Even though we weren’t that close, I hoped she would be willing to help me make the transition to America, so San Francisco it was! I contacted the friend to make arrangements. She agreed to find an apartment for me so I would have a place to live as soon as I get there. Everything was falling into place. My family was supportive, my friends were willing to help me settle in, but something was missing. My degree. Unfortunately, my degree from Vietnam would not transfer to America. I must restart my education in order to have a successful career. But I was more than willing to. I was going to go back to school and get a completely different degree in order to have the career I dreamed of. Now, the only thing left to do is move.
After my 18-hour plane ride, I’ve finally landed in San Francisco. As I unloaded my carry on and went to collect my luggage, I realized something was missing: A phone number, an address, and directions, everything that would lead me to my friend and only American contact. All I had was her Facebook account and an unsmart phone that wouldn’t even allow me to contact her through Facebook. After frantically searching the airport, I finally found an available computer I could use to message her. I let her know I was here in America and ready to meet her at my new apartment. Eventually she responded and told me to meet her at her work, a Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks away. A nice American gave me directions and I was on my way.
But something was missing. Money. I couldn’t afford a taxi to take me so I was forced to walk. Not knowing just how steep and hilly San Francisco is, I learned the hard way that lugging several pieces of luggage up and down the streets was very impractical and exhausting. The streets and hills never seemed to end! It felt like every hill was steeper than the last. After defeating the streets, I finally arrived at my friends restaurant. When I asked about my new apartment, she informed me she was unable to find me one but I could stay with her for the time being. We left the restaurant and headed to her place (thankfully it was right around the corner).
Once we got to the apartment, she opened the front door and I immediately noticed something was missing: A place for me to sleep. The apartment was tiny! It was literally a bed with clothes and shoes around it. There wasn’t even a kitchen or bathroom attached to our room. We had to share these with the others in the building. I knew this lifestyle wasn’t for me. I had to get my own place as soon as possible. Luckily, I was able to find a lady who was renting out a room in her house. It was expensive, but at least it was my own space. I moved in right away.
Unfortunately, my time in San Francisco was limited. The apartments were expensive and I still needed to go back to school to get a degree. After three months, I decided to move again. I had a friend in Flushing, Michigan that I was in contact with who offered to house me if I moved there. She said the housing and education rate was much more affordable. That was all I needed to hear for me to jump on the next flight out of California. Today, I am still living in Michigan with my friend. It’s been three years since I’ve moved to America. I work at a local nail salon to help put me through school. I’m currently enrolled at Mott Community College and plan on getting my degree in nursing. I will be transferring to the University of Michigan once I’ve gotten my associates degree from Mott. I am determined that this degree will get me in a great career path.
I’ve faced a lot of obstacles and made a lot of mistakes, but it was worth it in the end. I’m headed towards a successful future. My world will forever be changed because I did not give up at the first mistake I made. After a long three years, I’ve found all of my missing pieces. By facing all of my defeats, I came out stronger and more determined. If I hadn’t been so lost throughout my journey, I may not be the person I am today. Now that I have found myself, nothing is missing.
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.