I remember feeling very lonely and confused during my high school graduation back in May 2013. I wondered if my peers felt scared the same way I was. I was about to begin a new chapter in my life called “college.”

I had a lot of questions about college. What should I major in? Should I go to America or Paris? Should I take a year off? 

Now, I have all the answers. But back in Vietnam, I had no clue, no support and no direction.

Looking at my friends, they made it seem that college was a fun time. A chance to get out of Vietnam, study hard, party hard and go shopping. And so I thought that was going to be my experience as well. I felt entitled to this “fun” college experience.

Deep down inside, I knew that this wasn’t me, but I went along with them. The movies I watched did not make me feel better but further reinforced what college was supposed to be: socializing, drinking, staying up late to study, and living like there is no tomorrow.

Watching these movies and hearing my friends talk about college made me feel like something was wrong with me. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to have fun? Isn’t this the time when you are finally free from your parents and can do whatever you want?

I did not want to party hard. It just wasn’t me. I do not enjoy the taste of alcohol and would prefer a chocolate smoothie any day 🙂

I also tried to ask my parents for some college advice, but they could not help me. They did not attend college themselves. So I was the first out of my family to receive higher education. Just thinking about that makes me feel so proud and excited that I was the first. At the same time, I wish I had someone to turn to for all my questions, doubts and worries. When I think about all the questions I had and how terrified I felt, I want to give my 18-year-old self the biggest hug.

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I will never forget my experience at Harvard Summer School. I still remember the day my father dropped me off at Thayer Hall with my younger sister. We flew from Ho Chi Minh city and stayed in Hoboken New Jersey to see my uncle for a bit. Then we left to New York to do some more sight seeing before arriving at our final destination, Cambridge Massachusetts.

The first day at Cambridge was rainy and gloomy. I have never been to the East Coast before. This was my first time in the Boston area and the first time for me to be in America! I felt like I was in a whole new world. So many things to do and so little time. I was afraid that summer time would not be enough for me to experience all of Cambridge.

Overall, I thought the East Coast was really charming and romantic. So many cute little shops, very good food and lovely bookstores that you could spend the whole day there just reading and not having to buy a book when you leave haha!

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A simple outfit and a polished blazer.

Nothing makes me more happy than wearing that.

I think blazers make a simple outfit more elevated, elegant and sophisticated. I never leave home without it.

Los Angeles is a sunny city all year round but the weather changes day to day. Sometimes it gets cold in the early morning, windy during the day and freezing at night. I could be in a different part of LA and then drive up a few miles up north or south and enter into a different season.

The great thing about wearing a blazer is that it makes you look put together and at the same time keeps you warm. If the weather gets too sunny and humid you can always take it off.  I’m the type of person who gets cold easily so I always have to bring a jacket or a blazer to keep me warm.

For the most part, Los Angeles style is casual, boho and laidback. I feel that it does not suit me. I still prefer the NYC style that I was surrounded with when I lived there. So, I always keep a bit of New York city chic no matter where I go 🙂

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I’ve been told a lot that I sound just like an American and look like I’ve lived here all my life. So when I tell people I am from Vietnam they look at me very weirdly. “Like no way! How can you be from Vietnam your English is so good!”

I truly believe that because of the way that I talk, look and carry myself,  that people assume that I am an American born and raised here.

But deep down inside it’s the opposite.

I feel like an alien in a new planet. At times I feel like I belong here and at times I don’t.

Los Angeles is fascinating because within this big city there are micro-communities. It’s kind of cool. When you step foot in the tiny communities or areas like Venice, DTLA etc. you feel like you are entering a new world. That’s why I love living here because there’s a bit of everything and no one is truly from Los Angeles. Most people who live here are from other parts of America who come to LA for work.

When I meet Americans for the first time, I have no idea what to tell them in terms of where I am from. Should I tell them the whole story of me going to school in New York then dropping out then relocating to California? Should I tell them I moved from San Jose to LA? Or should I just tell them I am from LA? But that makes no sense because I did not grow up here. In the end I usually just tell them I am from Vietnam but then I kind of have to tell them a bit of a back story of how I ended up in Los Angeles.

Being Vietnamese in Los Angeles = I feel like I am in my own American movie.

Because every corner that I turn to looks like a road or house I’ve seen in an American movie growing up. It’s funny because I remember watching those movies and wanting to live in America and now my whole life is here.

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A year ago when COVID hit, most of my Vietnamese friends and relatives went back to Vietnam. “America is not safe anymore, my future is in Vietnam” they said.

“I just feel like America is not for me. In Vietnam you have clubs, cafe, fun nightlife and your friends and family are there. Why stay in America when life is so much cheaper there?”

I could not agree more.

Every time I heard these comments, it made me feel bad that I continued to stay in America. I felt sad that I was missing out on spending time with my family and friends back home. Seeing my friends post photos of Vietnam, the food, the fun social events on Instagram made me really want to buy a ticket home.

Vietnam did such an amazing job controlling COVID so things are back to normal, you can read here to find out more.

I thought to myself “well, how bad would it be to go home, spend time with family, do my online classes, and just live life like a normal person?” It sounded alluring and tempting but my gut was telling me no. I just had a feeling if I came back home with my parents, I would resort to the life I had before I came to America. I would not be able to grow and be challenged.

That is why I continued to remain in America despite so many people telling me to return home.

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Last year, I was hardly productive and I did not accomplish everything I set out to do. 2020 was suppose to be the year where I made even more progress and hit all my goals. But it turned out to be the opposite. That was hard for me to accept & adjust, because I am the type of person who loves to try to control everything. And this was the first time in my life where I could not control everything. It was impossible.

Watching the news was draining. I just could not handle the stress and anxiety of living alone under a pandemic. All of this was foreign to me. I thought that after everything I went through in the past, I could overcome this pandemic situation. I thought to myself: well if I could survive breakups, dropping out of college, moving to a whole different country and my family going through financial hardship, I could at least push through the pandemic. I was wrong.

Online school was difficult 🙁 I was doing my senior thesis online and that was a challenge. It was also a sad realization that my dream of graduating and walking on the stage would not come true.

But those hard days taught me a very great lesson that I needed to learn.

“Your problems don’t go away, it’s just how you deal with the bad days, how you manage it and how you push through is what matters most.”

After being stuck in a rut for so many months, I decided that enough was enough. I am done complaining. Eckhart Tolle said “wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it or accept it totally.”

For me, I was not able to remove myself from the situation and fly back home to Vietnam. Flights were only allowed for Vietnamese Citizen, which I am, but there was a lengthy process to obtain a flight ticket, which I could not be bothered to do. I thought it would be inconvenient to wait for the embassy, fly 19 hours and quarantine for 14 days, all just to get back home. I felt that staying in my apartment and continuing my online school would be the best option. I would also be in the same time zone for my classes. There was no way, I was going back to Vietnam to do my LMU online classes! Could you imagine me waking up at 1am-4am for classes? No thank you 😛

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