Could you share a story about how you found your identity?
When I first came to the US, I was an international student and so I couldn’t go to public school because I didn’t pay taxes. I ended up going to a private school in Virginia and it was pretty much an all-white school, 98% white, full of Anglo-Saxon culture. The biggest part of my childhood was that I felt kind of lost; I came with my parents and brother and we all took care of each other, but besides my brother I never really had an Asian role model to look up to, so for the majority of my pubescent years I tried to fit in with the white culture at my school. I played soccer, I played lacrosse for like 7 years…when I got to college, though, I drifted away from that because I decided I didn’t want to continue trying to be white for another 4 years of my life. I was lucky because I met my friend Min at Hoya Break Squad practice, we both joined, and now here I am. 4 years later, I could have never imagined Min and I running Hoya Break squad now.
What other organizations are you involved with on campus? Could you tell us about your experiences with these organizations?
I am involved with VSA; they are definitely a dear family to me, because there were no other Vietnamese at my middle school or high school. When I came to Georgetown, it was like, “Wow, there are some people who share my identity and my culture,” and that’s kind of nice to have, you know? That’s a certain problem with only having white friends: I would have really close white friends in high school but they would never know what it was like to be an international student or an Asian student. To them I’m exotic and I’m cool; why should I complain about being smart at math? “Being Asian sounds pretty good to me!” But in reality, I had to work twice as hard to get to that point.
I am also involved with HBS, and we have gone through such a long journey together. When the last senior captain graduated, everyone panicked because nobody knew who the next captain would be. At the end of the year, we had a little party, and the captain asked Min and me to consider being captain. We were both like, “No way,” and we even battled each other to not be captain. In the end, the captain put the responsibility on my shoulders, and then Min felt bad and decided to divide the work with me evenly. Things have worked really well since then; we were only sophomores back then, and there was a lot of pressure assigned to the title of captain so we had to develop some sort of expertise in break dancing in order to carry our names. That summer, Min and I worked extremely hard – I learned a move called the windmill which ended up hurting me a lot, but regardless of the pain or the time it was worth it. We are such a deep family; I think one of the things that tied us together the most as a team was what happened last year, which was one of the toughest moments in HBS history. In the last performance of last year’s fall semester, I injured myself really badly, tearing my shoulder ligaments and dislocating my collarbone. I was GERMS’d and brought to the hospital, the entire squad came with me and waited in the waiting room while I was in the ER. I chose physical therapy over invasive surgery which would have severed and reattached my ligaments – I’ve regained 95% of my strength, but the injury will always be there. So I was injured for spring semester, and Min was studying abroad, so the kids – Max, Ariel, Sam, and Sean – really helped take care of me, and they really stepped up to the plate when I needed them. We weren’t a club back then, so we had to practice on dance mats in White Gravenor – Max and Ariel helped set that up for me. It really was so difficult, since spring season is our busiest time of the year. While I was in the hospital, I didn’t know what I could do to contribute: I couldn’t choreograph, couldn’t teach new members, and I’ve lost the ability to do power moves forever. That was really difficult on all of us, but it drew our group closer together and changed our dynamic – we’re always there for each other now. Each member is truly irreplaceable, and now, when Min and I graduate, we are very confident that the newer members will grow into excellent captains.