First semester at LMU is all done! It made me think of all the funny things that I’ve encountered being an International student on campus. I thought I should compile a list and see if any of you shared similar experiences like me 🙂

#1 You have to explain so many times why you chose the States for college that you actually have a speech prepared in the back of your head. I get asked this so many times. Even things like: “so you were born and raised in Vietnam? Your parents live abroad? You live alone?” It doesn’t bother me anymore but at first I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to say. When people ask me why I chose LMU or the States I always ask myself which story should I tell them first?  The part where I graduated high school and went to New York and hated the school? Or the part where I went to community college and transferred to LMU? Haha! It is complicated because my path to college was a mess but I just learned to tell people what they need to know depending on how well we know each other.

#2 “Really what’s your country like?” Story of my life. I’ve had people ask and want to learn more about where I’m from which is always nice because I love sharing my culture with others. But then there are those sad ignorant people that leave me speechless at the end of the conversation. I remember one time when I was at summer school, this guy made some pretty rude remarks about Vietnam’s history. I swear I felt like another side of Catherine Ha was going to be revealed that day but then I just ended the conversation and left because I was in so much shock. I learned that you can’t reason with people who are rude and stubborn. Just let them say what they want to say and leave. Don’t spend your time and energy trying to be right. It would only make you feel more upset. Be kind and exit with class 😉

#3: The giant smile you make when you find out that there is a restaurant near school that makes your favorite home dish. I would be lying if I told you that I pay attention in class. 30% of the time my mind is focusing on the Professor and 70% of the time I am thinking about a good bowl of Pho and where I can find it in Los Angeles :p I cannot tell you how many times I day dream in class thinking about good Vietnamese food. The truth is I do not like American food. I mean I was born and raised with Vietnamese food my whole life so I’m still learning to adjust!

#4 Teaching your friends your language & culture, brightens up your week! I love being around people who value culture and diversity. Most of my friends are International students and we just get each other! I teach them about my culture and vice versa. I find that most International students share the same qualities. We understand the importance of culture, being presentable, respecting elders and more. It’s nice knowing that you’re not alone in a foreign country. These people are like family to me.

#5 “Wow! Your English is amazing!” I’m sure every International student can relate to this.

#6 Meeting someone from home feels like love at first sight. Every time I hear there is another Vietnamese person on campus I immediately stalk them and try to get in touch with them. If I don’t speak Vietnamese for a while I feel really sad, like a part of me is gone. I know that sounds so cheesy but I am proud to be Vietnamese and speaking my mother tongue is the closest thing to my home and family because I live so far away. That is why I make an effort to practice Vietnamese when I can so I don’t forget it. It’s super important to me and my parents would kill me if I forgot to speak it fluently.

#7 To color or to colour? Obviously coming to America I’ve had to change to American English. I used to write ‘colour’ and ‘favourite’ in my essays and my Professors looked at me like I was crazy. However, I still think British English is the right way to do it and you can argue with me all you want, I won’t change my mind. Hehe but for a good grade at LMU I’ll stick to American English in my homework assignments.

#8 That mini heart attack when you can’t find your passport/visa before heading back home. I just had this experience before heading back to Vietnam. Make a note to yourself and place your important documents where you can remember them or else you’ll stress out!

#9 Bringing back presents for your family and friends back home is a MUST. I think we all can agree that everybody loves getting gifts, it means you are thinking of them 🙂

#10 Jet lag at the beginning of every term is normal. Changing time zones is second nature to me now. I show up to the first day of every semester thinking it’s night time in Vietnam. Not much I can do but just cope with it. Seeing my family outweighs everything else even if it means being jetlagged on the first day of school.

#11 Your phone has multiple messaging apps to connect with your family overseas. My phone has a variety of messaging apps to keep in touch with my family. I use Viber, Whatsapp, We Chat and more. What do you guys use to keep in touch with your loved ones?

#12 Finally America is your second home. As much as you miss home and might not like where you are at the moment, sooner or later you will see the great things that America has to offer! It will take sometime but you will get there i promise.

I hope you all are having a nice Winter break. Tomorrow I am heading to the beach with my family! Can’t wait!

Goodnight from Vietnam.

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