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It’s a beautiful day to be alive and live a life full of opportunities!

My family immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s during the Vietnam War. It was common during that time to immigrate out of the country because many people realized that the life the Communists were going to give them wasn’t the life they wanted to live. The largest Vietnamese communities reside in the United States, Australia, and Canada. My dad chose the United States.  

This is his story. 

Tracy Huynh: “How old were you when you left Vietnam and why?”
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“I left Vietnam when I was 16 because I didn’t like the environment and I didn’t want to go into the military.”

In many countries, it was common for men who were of age and who were healthy to join the military. In this case, my dad did not want to because he did not like the political environment. There was tension between the Communists and commoners. If he didn’t leave when he did, he would’ve been more susceptible to being subjected to torture and death. 

TH: “How was your experience?”

“I don’t wish what I went through on anyone. Like a lot of people, I traveled by boat. The boat was tiny- the size of a small fishing boat. I don’t know how we did it. There were so many people piled onto those boats. I spent days trying to hide from the communist police and hiding engine oil so that I wouldn’t get caught. I would’ve been put into jail if I got caught. Luckily, I had family who were dispersed and knew people well enough to get me through. I traveled with my brother and his family because I was still young. 

There were people who came from different walks of life on the boat. Rich, poor, old, and young. They all had the common goal of finding a better life for themselves and their families. To this day, I still have flashbacks of my days on the boat. Most of the days, we had no food or water. It came to the point where some of us were desperate enough and had to drink our own urine. The waves were horrendous. I had to use all my energy to scoop water out of the boat, so we wouldn’t get drowned. Once we got to the camps, we had access to small portions and rationed amounts of food and water. We had to wait until our paperwork was done before we were allowed on the plane over to the United States.”

Depending on when the individual chooses to immigrate, there are different rules and regulations. By the time my dad had immigrated, the number of immigrants allowed into the United States was limited and the camps were closed to “off-campus” freedom. My dad, his brother, and his brother’s family were an exception because they already had relatives who immigrated years prior. This process is known as chain migration. Those relatives were allowed to sponsor my dad and his brother over. Like some of my other extended relatives, that’s why there are some families who live in Australia and Canada. 

TH: “Since coming to the US, what have you been able to do?”

“For one, my kids are able to live in a free country. They aren’t restricted in what they want to do and the close-mindedness of what I had to live through. I’ve had the opportunity to move throughout the U.S. as I wish. I have a job that allows me to have the financial freedom to send money to my family in Vietnam. Now that I live in the U.S., I am more open-minded to life past Vietnam. I’m not very fond of the mindset in Vietnam, but I understand why. I also have access to advanced healthcare and government regulations.”

The United States and Vietnam have different cultures and values. They value their relationship with the community and their social impact differently. There are expectations here in the United States that seem foreign and out of reach in Vietnam- such as freedom of speech. Living outside of Vietnam, my dad and other immigrants are able to educate and bring light on how our families in Vietnam can advocate for themselves like they did almost 40 years ago. 

I am grateful for my family who has sacrificed their time and sanity to immigrate to the United States. Life would look a lot different had they not done so. I want to take the time this year to be thankful for new opportunities. My parents and grandparents took a leap at a huge opportunity. It was a scary leap, but they persevered. I’m very privileged to be where I am today. Although my chances to take a new opportunity will never be like theirs, I am reminded to just go ahead and leap at every new opportunity- even if it scares me. You should too. 

Tracy Huynh

CU Boulder '23

Tracy is a sophomore at the Leeds School of Business. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching Netflix and going shopping. If she is not studying, she can be found with a fuzzy blanket and fuzzy socks in bed or in the home decor section of any store daydreaming.
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