Before I was five, I thought I was Chinese. However, I wondered why I couldn’t understand the Chinese patrons of Chinatown restaurants. Upon learning my true ethnicity, I pulled out a mammoth atlas we had under the bed. My father pointed to an “S”-shaped country bordering the ocean, below China. Over the years, I learned my parents were refugees from Vietnam. “Boat people,” my mother, still young and struggling to grasp the English language back then, would hear kids whispering when she walked through the halls of her high school. Like many immigrants, my parents and their families weren’t very wealthy when they came to America, but they were willing to work hard. Like many Vietnamese parents, mine would tell me, “We want you to be success.”
My parents are two of the most hardworking people I know. Although a college dropout, my father is now an engineer at Boeing, while my mother ran a successful daycare until I started high school. With no qualms about sacrificing time, money, or respect, my parents chose to close my mother’s daycare to better homeschool my three siblings and me and leave my father to single-handedly support our family of six. Till I started attending Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) as a Running Start student, I was homeschooled, but it wasn’t till then did I appreciate the sacrifices my parents had made.
I had finally learned what my parents had been trying to teach me. Family is the basic unit of civilization, like a cell was the most basic unit of living organisms. Despite all the turmoil that may occur, family is important. Blood is important. Although Running Start had been my mother’s idea, I wanted my parents to know the time they invested in me was worthwhile. I refused to let them down. Science and math were formerly my weakest subjects. They had felt cold, compared to writing and art, but the spike of hours I spent studying lead me not only to understand them better but also lighted a passion for problem solving and instilled in me the confidence to excel in science and math.
At SCCC, I had changed career goals several times from pharmacy to medicine to pharmacy again. In Vietnamese culture, as in many others, females are nurturers. Moreover, being the oldest of my siblings and seeking to become “successful,” I felt obligated to choose a noble career in a...