Tiếng Việt+English+.. ¿Español?
What does it mean to be an international citizen? Does is mean that you are able to navigate in another country without speaking the native language? Does it mean being able to speak the language? Does it require one day, or one year to live in another country to be culturally literate? Or could you live in your home country and still become an international citizen according the company and conversations that you have?
As I am about to begin my journey into Argentina, I am constantly reminding myself of the goals and intentions for my study abroad experience. I am still discovering my own definition of being an international citizen. Looking forward, I think my biggest challenge will be learning how to remain grounded in my own culture and identity as an Asian-American while learning to understand and appreciate Argentine culture. I have to ask: what parts of myself will I make visible in my new environment? What must I hide about myself in order to fit in? Will there ever be times that I must choose between an American identity or a Vietnamese identity, with no choice of being seen as an Asian-American?
As a first –generation scholar, I am fortunate to be in college. I think the greatest skill that comes from gaining a higher education is the ability to prose thoughtful and, sometimes difficult, questions. For my parents, who both traveled to the US from Vietnam, I don’t think that they were the same questions that I am myself. I’m sure they were more worried about the basics, like getting a job and supporting their family and learning the new language. Assimilating into American culture was probably the last thing on their mind, especially because there is a large Vietnamese community in Iowa.
On the other hand, I will be coming to Argentina with different questions, and I will be put in a similar position as my parents when they were immigrants. I will have to adapt to a new lifestyle, a new language, and will be challenged to rediscover what I may see as normal in my life. Although I could have chosen to study abroad in another country, like Vietnam, I chose Argentina for a variety of reasons. I grew up in a predominantly Latino community and got to see first-hand the struggles that Hispanic immigrants face. These experiences have motivated me to learn Spanish and to work with the large immigrant community in my city, Charlotte, NC. Because I already speak Vietnamese and can connect more with that group, I wanted to immerse myself in a new environment and learn a skill that will help open me to a new culture. I look forward to taking classes in the universities, but also finding a local service organization to understand the issues that locals identify themselves. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to meeting my host family and making new friends!