The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



From Vietnam to the United States: senior Andrew Nguyen Shares His Story

Photo courtesy of senior Andrew Nguyen 

  San Luis Obispo High School has had its fair share of foreign exchange students over the years, but what about students who have immigrated here to live permanently? Senior Andrew Nguyen came to the United States three years ago from Saigon, Vietnam with his parents and younger brother. Although Nguyen is still learning to speak fluent English and adjust to American culture, he has already made himself a well-known personality of the SLOHS student body as everyone’s friendly classmate.

  However, many people don’t know Nguyen’s full backstory besides his country of origin. Expressions talked to Nguyen about not only his story of coming to America, but the struggles he has faced being a student immigrant.

Expressions: When did you move here from Vietnam?

Senior Andrew Nguyen: I’ve been in the USA since 2019. I remember my flight to the US was in June 2019. San Jose was the first city I stayed in for three months. After that, my family decided to move to SLO and so far we have been here for three years.

Expressions: Where in Vietnam did you live?

Nguyen: I lived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). It’s a beautiful city with simple, friendly people and excellent cuisine.

Expressions: Why did your family choose to come to America and not somewhere else?

Nguyen: I think maybe I can find opportunities for myself that match my interests and abilities without being affected by the prejudices imposed by society.

Expressions: How did you react when you first arrived in America?

Nguyen: It was a mixed feeling, both excited but also a little nervous [and] anxious and the questions kept running through my mind, not knowing if Americans are welcoming to Asians, especially Vietnamese, and how the school environment is, etc. The interesting fact is that the image of America that I am seeing is completely different in my imagination and some movies I have seen before.

Expressions: What is the biggest difference between Vietnamese culture and American culture?

Nguyen: Because Vietnam and the US are two different cultures between the East and the West, it has differences in terms of culture, society, as well as ideology, and prejudice. For example, how to greet each other. In Vietnam, juniors will always bow to their seniors to show respect from the younger to the elderly. In stark contrast to the relaxed openness and friendliness of Americans, I did not adapt to it at first, but over time I began to get used to it and accepted it.

Expressions: What do you miss the most about Vietnam?

Nguyen: From the day I flew out of Vietnam, I miss a lot of things from friends, teachers, sidewalk eateries, places I used to go to every day, but perhaps what I miss the most are my memories from when I was a kid until I became a student in a high school with many challenges and difficulties. I still remember that in ninth grade, my friends and I escaped the fence from the school to skip class on a stormy day and sat in a taxi to District 1 to drink lemon tea and eat a bowl of noodle soup. Now, that noodle soup restaurant is closed because of the epidemic and social distancing in Vietnam. It’s really sad because it’s a place where I have many memories of my school life.

Expressions:  How often do you go back to visit Vietnam?

Nguyen: Since [I moved here], I have not been able to return to Vietnam. Actually, I had a plan to return to Vietnam last year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, flights to Vietnam did not happen. Now the epidemic in Vietnam is getting worse and worse. I hope the epidemic situation in Vietnam will be controlled so that after I graduate I will be back.

Expressions:  What was your biggest struggle coming to America?

Nguyen: My biggest struggle is adapting to a brand new environment. When you have lived in a place that you have been attached to for a long time, suddenly you come to a different environment with a different culture and thought and we have to try to adapt to it. Simply [that is] the common mentality of people when we have culture shock.

  Adjusting to a completely new culture and society is not easy. But Nguyen is overcoming these challenges by continuing to apply himself in his school life, becoming a member of the Associated Student Body (ASB) and taking AP classes. He is currently planning to major in chemistry or dermatology at his dream school, UC Irvine.

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