2008-09 Gathering of Voices

Transitioning to Life in America

Hung Nguyen

Like many people living in developing countries, I also wanted to come to America to see what it was like to be in one of the richest country in the world. And like them, I had to pay an expensive price for leaving my country in which there are still many people needing me.

Maybe I would not have been too miserable if I stayed in my country with a regular job, a house, big family, good friends, etc as almost everyone living in the world wished. I decided to move to America with my wife and two kids.

The first hindrance I’ve had is American English even though I studied it a long time in Vietnam. I can’t understand what Americans say to me, and they can’t also understand me. I had to come back to school as freshmen even though I am over forty- year- old. I had to go everywhere with my mother- in- law’s help or walk or take the bus when she was busy for work. I walked over 3 miles a day from my house to bus stop round trip. With the cold weather in Bellingham, (Vietnam is hot) my family had to walk too much to complete our first goals in America. We had to check our health, apply for Social Security Card, get interviewed by DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services). Though most Americans are kind and friendly (especially the officers in DSHS) we still see many problems due to difficulties in language.

To learn English again, I have to forbid myself of all of my hobbies and just invest for English. When I learn high school, then university, I hated literature and foreign language the most. The more I love math, the more I hate them. But now, I have to learn English as a way to exist in America, if I don’t want to become the deaf and dumb in this new country. How will I be if as I can only communicate with the Americans by body language and can’t understand any messages due to difference in language? That is also a reason why I have worked very hard for my English skills.

I am very happy when I have studied in WCC. There are many good teachers and staff who are very kind with me. In scholar environment of WCC, I have been encouraged to study again by their helping (ESL, ABE teachers, work- first officers, students in learning center). They gave me the support that I will not forget in the first days in America. I can’t say any words to thank them better than this: I will try to study with my best ability. I am improving my English little by little in other classes (ENGL 92, 95). More than one time, I thought I would quit class, but a good teacher in ENGL 92 helped me to gain everything in that course, and finally, I passed that class to enter ENGL 100. There are still very many difficulties for me in next stages, but I can’t forget about the help from this school.

I am also lucky to have job on weekends. However it is too hard as I must work twelve hours a day on weekends whereas I often worked five hours a day in Vietnam. Riding my bike about five miles for work in early morning for job, I have felt too tired, especially when I went up on the slippery roads because I was over forty years old and had not ridden a bike more than fifteen years.

Every time I get a call from my family in Vietnam, I don’t dare say anything about what I have been experiencing in America. I always say that everything is fine even though more than one time my eyes have filled with tears. In my first snow season in America (staying in my house when it was snowing) I saw my wife going to work as if there was a vague cutting in my heart. She didn’t work over 10 years after she got pregnant with our first child. We often stand at the bus station under snow weather. I forgot feeling cold in Bellingham as I think how I was treated (most things are good, a few things are bad) and how I need to strive more in the first days in America. Though most Americans are very kind and America is rich and modern, it does not mean my family will be easy to find happiness unless we study and work more and more. Those are also things in which almost all Americans have been doing.

Finally, I can’t know how well my family will do in the future. But surely, moving to America will be a big lesson about life that I will remember forever. And I think that WCC will be place which will still help to change lifestyle of many students, especially, the people have just come to America like my family.

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