As retold by Lauren Gould
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” This mantra by Walt Disney was impressed upon me. Personally, I’ve dreamt about furthering my education; that’s what I came to America to do. My studies have always been my number one priority since coming here. What I didn’t realize was how much I would learn outside of my studies. I’ve learned more in my time in America than I could have ever fathomed. There are four lessons I have learned and want to share, not only because it is beneficial for other foreign students to know, but because it has shaped the person I’ve become.
Lesson 1-American Cuisine
American food is extremely different from the food in Vietnam, with much more variety offered. I love going to different restaurants and ordering food from a multitude of different countries just to try it. Though I still eat a lot of foods that are customary in Vietnam, I have been able to try so many different kinds of foods that would have never been made available to me if I hadn’t come to America. My go-to food here is always pizza! Aside from all of the unique foods I’ve gotten to try, I’ve also learned a lot about the methods behind it all. Cooking and baking is a form of art where repetition of the processes is essential in mastering the skill. Eventually I created my own dishes from scratch. My host-parents have taught me a thing or two and I have practiced different techniques. I thoroughly enjoy decorating baked goods; I make the most adorable apple rose!
English can be a bit tricky, but thankfully my host-parents aren’t afraid to teach me the proper way to word things. It’s also important to listen and observe the way others interact with each other. I wasn’t just learning a new language in coming here, I was learning a new culture too. Not everything is like it seems in the movies or on TV. When I first came to America I had this picture in my head of what it would be like; bustling city streets with friendly, smiling people. I was right and wrong about that fact. America doesn’t just consist of amiable people, like any other place in the world there are good and bad people. However, most people have a kind heart. You just have to be aware of your surroundings. Even the way people smile here is different. Some people have fake smiles, where you look at them one moment and they’ll smile but the second you look away it’s gone. I struggled to understand why; if you don’t want to smile than don’t. But you never know the reason behind a person’s smile. In the exact same way I noticed that when you don’t smile at someone, they can become offended. In a way it feels forced but at the same time it’s a socially accepted form of communication. People tend to respond better and are more willing to truly listen when you’re smiling, especially when you wield a genuine smile. But it is okay to speak your mind and be vocal about whether you like or dislike something or if you need help. If you keep quiet nobody will know that you need help in the first place.
All that I now know has given me a more open and all around better understanding of the world; everything I’ve learned I value wholeheartedly. I know that I will carry these things with me the rest of my life and use them as a catalyst of sorts to provoke the drive that already exists in me. There are a multitude of different nationalities and cultures represented in America; it’s one of the things I love most about this country. The level of diversity makes me feel at ease in a place that was once so foreign to me. And now I am part of that ever expanding culture.
Driving personal cars in Vietnam isn’t as common as it is here in America. When I came here I did not know how to drive at all. Naturally, I decided that I needed to learn to drive. I’d seen other foreign students earn their driver’s license, and I decided if they can do it, I can do it too. Learning a new skill can be intimidating. For me learning to drive was one of the most unnerving experiences I’ve been faced with. The written portion of the test was straightforward, I studied the material given to me and caught on very quickly; the hard part was taking the road test. I took classes twice a week and my host-parents took me out to practice numerous times, I was determined to be a vigilant driver. No matter how nerve racking it was or how scared of my driving other people were, I just kept trying. I came to realize that with any obstacle, big or small, perseverance is key. I was able to earn my license and was immensely proud of myself-and then came winter. Driving is even more daunting in the winter when it’s snowing and the road is all slippery. I tend to drive much slower and with caution. Whenever I start to second guess myself, I always remind myself I’m doing fine and if other people don’t like it they can pass me!
The climate is very different where I’m from originally. It’s always very warm and even in our ‘winter’ the coldest it gets is usually around 60 degrees. Michigan winters are frigid, much colder than I had anticipated. The snow is beautiful; it looks graceful as it falls to the ground, almost whimsically. One day I learned how fun snow could be. One snowy day when I was at work, we got a break and my co-workers took me outside to play. They taught me how to make snow angels, and we even made a snowman together! On the contrary, it is very slippery and wet. The bitter temperatures that accompany it require warm clothing. I don’t think a lot of people who aren’t from around here realize how important it is to properly take care of your skin; during that time of year-moisturizer is a necessity. The severe temperatures made my skin dry out and crack, so I was so relieved when my host-mom showed me the wonders of a good moisturizer. I also learned first-hand that a pair of cute gloves does not equal to warm glove; my hands ached after playing in the snow, but it was well worth the experience.
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.