We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofThy To

I remember, like it was yesterday, the day that turned my world upside down. It was a hot summer day. I  was thirteen and had just gotten back from school. My dad was home early, and he called me into his room. When I entered, he said, “I have something serious to talk to you about, have a seat.” He started talking about how important education was. I was a little confused, because I had good grades. Then suddenly, I heard him say, “We are going to move to the United States” 

I grew up in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is a city filled with many delicious foods, one food I love is called Pho. I love my favorite amusement park and that there are only two seasons of the year: sunny and rainy.  As a kid I always watched American movies and dreamed of living the American dream. But I did not expect my dream would come true so quickly.  The afternoon my dad told me I was shocked. I could not say a word for five minutes straight. I stopped listening to my dad trying to go over the news in my mind. When I finally realized that I wasn’t dreaming, I did not know how to feel about it. I had never traveled outside Vietnam. I was so excited particularly about the flight, I wanted to see the sky and how beautiful it would be when you look down. But I was also conflicted. I was upset that I needed to leave my family and friends, my home country, my room, and go to a new world. But even though I was in shock, I knew that everything happens for a reason. 

I had a few months before I left with my family, so I decided to prepare myself for a new life. I started with improving my English and learning new words. I had no idea what to expect from a new country and new people, but I was ready to fulfill my dream.

My first day of school in the United States started not so okay. My first two classes were a nightmare. I could barely understand what was going on. Because my school is very far from my house I had to take a school bus, but I didn’t have anyone to help me, and I got on the wrong bus at first and was late. But my third class was English Language Development and there I found new friends right away because they came from the same country and so they made me feel less lonely. That class was so much fun and the teacher was so nice that I even forgot about the two previous classes. 

Despite having a hard first day, when I returned home, I cooked my first whole meal. I think that was my first achievement in a new country. I watched YouTube videos on how to prepare spaghetti with meatballs, wrote down all the ingredients I need, and bought them at the grocery store a few blocks away. It was not a huge achievement, but personally I felt good, that I could take care of myself and be more independent.   Over time, my new life in the United States slowly changed me from a young kid into a mature person and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned how to deal and adjust to new changes, new environments. At times I felt all alone in a foreign country and I could not yet speak much English. Moving out of my home country was the best decision ever made. It built my personality, it made me a much stronger person, physically and mentally. I appreciate my parents, who pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me in becoming who I am today.

© Thy To. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.