Growing up, my parents worked several jobs to provide for my three siblings and me. At a young age, I already understood that I needed to be independent. That no one was available to help me with my homework since my parents were working long hours and did not speak German. They always told me that getting an education is of utmost importance and should not be taken for granted. Therefore, I put all my energy into my academic work while simultaneously working as a cashier on Saturdays in order to financially support my parents.
Now, as a young adult and having reflected upon my parents' past, I can vaguely understand what they were going through after immigrating to a completely different country. To this day, my parents prefer not to talk about what exactly happened when they fled their home country. Maybe to protect me of the harsh truth, maybe to deliberately fade out the tragic experience they had to endure. My father would say 'Let the past be the past.' Thus, I do not force a conversation since he does not seem comfortable talking about his past. I am therefore very grateful for the Vietnamese Boat People organization since reading the blogs and listening to the podcast helps me connect with my own family’s background.
This is a photo of us when I was younger; I'm the one in green.
As a teenager, being humble and thankful was regretfully not always on my mind. I used to be ashamed of my family’s background. All I wanted was to fit in. I wanted people to pronounce my surname correctly, my parents to conform to society's culture and my outward appearance to match the others. Living in a small town in Upper Austria, I was the only Asian person in my class. I was torn between my parents' upbringing and the Austrian culture. I felt lost.
My youth was filled with constant stress, the feeling of owing my parents excellent grades and the pressure to succeed. My efforts absolutely paid off as I graduated high school with distinction. At university, I received a scholarship for Academic Excellence and graduated with the Bachelor of Science in Engineering. It was difficult, I won’t lie, but I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for my parents to leave Vietnam and never look back. Every chance I get and every opportunity I am offered are due to my parents who made the right decision decades ago.
This photo is of me and my sisters at graduation.
I truly believe that we as the younger generation need to focus on the endless possibilities we are offered. Possibilities our parents were denied due to circumstances they neither were responsible for, nor could control in any way. As a result of a war that they had no voice in, they just had no future prospects in Vietnam.
Sometimes, I imagine how my life would have evolved if my parents hadn't made the choice to emigrate. I would probably be married off, live in a small hut at the countryside and have children. My future would be predestined to be dark, unfulfilling and without any prospects. In reality, I am comfortably sitting in my room, writing these lines to you and having the world open to me. In times of despair and demotivation, I remind myself of how fortunate I truly am and the opportunities and endless possibilities I have at my fingertips.