Feature Real. Strong. Women.

Appreciating My Culture: An Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Reflection

By Yen Nguyen (Delta Epsilon, Southeast Missouri State University)

Being a first-generation Vietnamese American woman is who I am. I am more than proud, I am beyond thankful. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, I was taught about my culture and the traditions. For instance, Tết, which is known as the Lunar New Year, is celebrated in February. During the celebration, family will come together and celebrate the new year by eating many traditional dishes, singing karaoke or even listening to live music. With this celebration, we also honor the elderly. We pay respect to them and pray that they continue to grow strong and healthy.

My mother and father are my role models, and I am blessed to have them in my life, and for them to still continue to teach my brothers and me the Vietnamese culture, I am grateful. My mother and father were born and raised in Vietnam and met in a refugee camp. They had to learn how to survive each and every day. My father did not finish high school, and my mother did not finish grade school; however, their determination and perseverance allowed them to escape and move to the United States so that they could have a fresh start to everything.

Yen and her parents

As a first-generation Vietnamese American, I had to grow up quite fast. I learned how to make doctor appointments and call the bank to explain why there was an error on the bill at the age of 8. My first language was Vietnamese, so for me to comprehend what the person was saying, I had to translate back to my parents, which was certainly difficult. I learned the English language not only at school but also by simply watching television as well as with the help from my neighbor who was an ELL (English Language Learner) teacher.

Being academically driven is one of my parent’s top standards, and with that, I take my academics very seriously. Being the first to graduate high school, I was beyond thrilled to continue my academics and attend Southeast Missouri State University to study nursing. I continue to work hard in my academics as well as stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new people. I had never thought about joining a sorority whatsoever before college; however, I am grateful that I went through recruitment and found my second home: Alpha Chi Omega. Going through recruitment, I had the opportunity to talk to so many people. What caught my attention from Alpha Chi Omega were the multiple leadership opportunities. There are executive positions as well as other positions so that any woman in the chapter can run. In high school, I was very active, and for Alpha Chi Omega to present so many positions got me extremely excited, and I could see myself running for different positions within this chapter.

Throughout my two years in Alpha Chi Omega, I have learned that this sorority is extremely supportive of the diversity and inclusion of each and every woman in the chapter. Alpha Chi Omega has taught me to be comfortable when talking about uncomfortable issues and that we should learn from and listen to one another. All of my sisters in this chapter have helped me appreciate my culture so much more. It is so exciting to tell my sisters the way I grew up and how I felt when I did not feel comfortable with my English or even sharing my parent’s story of when they were in the refugee camp. Alpha Chi Omega has also taught me that no matter what the situation is, I should stand up for what I believe and be confident about it. This sorority really emphasizes what a real, strong woman is, and truly this is lived out each and every day by every single woman.