Build your community
I come from a family of Vietnamese immigrants. Growing up, there wasn’t a very large Vietnamese community around me, and I never really went to school with a large percentage of minorities either. Going into college, I had the feeling that it’d be kind of like that—that I wouldn’t find a big family of other Asians or other minorities. I was really nervous because college was definitely a new experience for me, especially since I was a first generation student.
I got a scholarship to go to Nebraska, and it required me to take a class through the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services (OASIS). Each week we would learn about something different, like money management skills, or academic expectations for papers.
We’d also learn about resources for different groups here on campus, like for veterans, the LGBTQ+ community or groups that celebrate racial minorities. It’s basic stuff, but I feel like a lot of students who don’t come from a background with college experience can benefit from those skills and resources.
Finding a Missing Piece
Taking that class got me to start hanging out more at the Multicultural Center here on our campus. It started with my friends just being like, “Hey, come to this event, try this thing,” and I started really putting myself out there and forming this big network of people on campus.
I met this group of friends here on campus they’ve become family to me. They’ve introduced me to a lot more things that I didn’t know about myself.
In high school, I had a group of friends who I could always turn to, and we talked about life and things that all high schoolers go through. The one part that was always missing was my identity as a Vietnamese American. Outside of my family, I didn’t have anyone else to talk about that to, or to celebrate that with. I always felt like a piece of me was missing.
It never really crossed my mind until I got to college and I had the opportunity to meet a larger community of other Vietnamese students and share things from our culture, like our food and entertainment. It made me feel more whole as a person because I’m making friends I can celebrate who I am with.
Trying to find a balance between the social and academic parts of my life can be tough, but having a solid community of friends has helped me elevate myself academically. I’ve always told myself, “you’re the product of your environment.”
If you want to be successful, you should surround yourself with successful people. By meeting other successful people, I’ve been able to do things that I probably wouldn’t have without them. Every semester I’ve been able to raise my GPA, which has always been a goal of mine and without my friends I wouldn’t have been able to reach it.
Getting to witness and meet other students who are involved and achieving really cool things is really awesome and it kind of pushes you to think, “They obviously excel in this area, and he excels in that area, and she excels in this area, so what can I do with my strengths? What can I do that will let someone else look at me and be inspired to do their thing?”
I think having the support system and second family here at Nebraska is going to allow me to reach my career goals. When I get into my career, I know I will always be able to fall back on this group, even if I’m feeling down or confused.
If I need guidance at a job, I know I can always go back and talk to someone who’s helped me get to where I’m at, and that they’ll give me the guidance I need. Along with that, being able to create this support system has helped me develop the skills that I can use after college, to create another community of people who will help me succeed, and I can help them succeed too.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
It's cliché, but the most important thing I can say is you really do have to just put yourself out there and not care what people think about you. Explore your interests and find something you really enjoy. Find something that you get a sense of accomplishment out of, and find that passion and just go for it.
You can't be scared to ask for help, because having community is what’s going to help you pursue those interests. If you don't know something or you want to know more about a club or an organization or if want to know more about how you can improve on your academics or find something that you enjoy, go ask a staff member and go to the student involvement office and ask them and they will be more than happy to help you find that home away from home.