For those who have spent time living, studying and working abroad, questions like: “How is the US? Is life in the U.S good?” and numerous related questions are no strange to them anymore. But for me, the answer is hard to be complete because emotions and experience gained in foreign countries are extremely plentiful and diverse. Perhaps, the only word that can be used to summarize that challenging journey is the word “awesome”.
Back from the United States, it was hard for me to describe in detail the lessons learned, the changes in my personality and thoughts. I have become wiser, knowledgeable and most importantly learn how to see things under a multi – dimensional lens. The time I spent studying and working in Pennsylvania and Illinois and living among the Americans changed my life so much in a positive way that I had never thought of before. The trip was also an extremely solid foundation for me to pursue the future goals.
I no longer judge as much as before
Americans have an extremely independent working culture that I learned from my beloved teacher – Professor Thach Nguyen, Acting Provost of Tan Tao University. “Mind your business. Americans don’t care about other’s jobs. You do what you do. I do what I do”.
During the time abroad, the world outside is completely different and new. The difference lies not only in Starbucks coffee or a hamburger, but also in lifestyle, work and how to handle the opposite opinion. If this is your first visit to the United States, you will notice that Americans spend too much money on laundry, especially dryers. I heard a Chinese commenting: “Why do Americans take advantage of the sun to dry clothes? Why do they have to spend money on a dryer?”. But very few people know that Pennsylvania is an area near the capital Washington, where the climate is cold and there are only 60 days of sunshine. The rest of the time is cold weather, with snow and rain. That’s why Americans love to sunbathe and organize outdoor activities even on the hot day.
Life in each country is a separate picture and the experiences in each place are never the same. Since then, I have never considered myself as more superior to judge people or against to opposing views because it is these differences that make up the interest in culture and people.
Life is too short to be afraid of anything
For the first time in his life, the 19-year-old boy went to the United States, interned at the State Senator’s office and lived there for 1 month. Surely, you think that boy must be fully prepared for the knowledge and skills to dare to do so? In fact, he had nothing except a fearless heart of a fighter and the determination to go to the end of the path he had chosen.
Mahatma Gandi once had a famous quote, engraved in my mind and became my guideline: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. Unlike Vietnam, walking across the street is a terrible fear for me. That fear is even bigger than the fear of guns because Americans often drive really fast, an average of 80 km/h. If you want to cross the road in the United States, especially in Pennsylvania, you will have to press the button to get a signal for crossing. When all cars stop at a red light, that’s when pedestrians have the right to cross the road. But the red light does not apply to vehicles turning left or turning right, meaning you may have an accident while crossing the street. I was once yelled at by a driver when I was crossing the street when he was turning into an alley. I was so scared and didn’t dare go through that alley for 5 days. But in the end, I was brave enough to face my fears and walk steadily on my chosen path.
Youngster can create more valuable experiences by setting aside their fears. This life is too short to be afraid forever.
You realize you are nobody. The key lesson is to learn, learn and learn a lot
Whether you are a celebrity, or a child from prestigious family, then to foreign countries, you are nobody. Or no matter how good you are at home, coming outside, you will meet people who are hundred thousand times better than you. Their foundation is already at the finish line, you will realize you are not as good as you think.
I came to realize that truth during my internship at the Office of State Senator Joe Pittman in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Prior to this internship, I spent three months studying the history of the world, learning about social issues and reading more about how the American government operates. I was so sure that I would integrate and adapt quickly to the working style here based on what I have prepared. It turned out I was completely passive at everything. The Senator’s office dealt with key issues related to birth certificates, housing and property complaints, laws, and complaints handling regarding the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). I was shocked and it took me a week to get used to all the paperwork and procedures. That fact woke me up in a coma and starting from scratch. No one was born perfect, so learn, study, study forever.
“Self-doubt” is one of the causes that prevents young people from pursuing big dreams. But studying abroad showed me that I could do it: Internship at the office of the US Senator, living alone in an unfamiliar country and overcoming my fears, the most stressful times in America to be able to have the most unique experiences. When I returned, I realized that I could not delay my confidence and ability any longer. It’s time for me to believe in myself and find achievements for myself.
If anyone asks me anything about studying abroad, I would really recommend them to pursue the opportunity to study overseas and explore. The experience of studying abroad is really great and it will definitely change your future life completely.
Tran Thanh Binh