Editor’s note: This story was written by a high school student in Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. This story is part of a special back-to-school issue.
I am Vietnamese. However, I don’t feel as if I’ve really embraced the Vietnamese culture.
My parents were born in Vietnam and they immigrated here. As they struggled to save money, start new lives, and support their kids, my life has been that of an average American kid — an opportunity that my parents had to work hard for.
I was born into my American identity and embraced it, but I often forgot about my Vietnamese identity. My parents always spoke Vietnamese to me, but I never made the effort to learn to speak it fluently, so I always just replied in English. I remember that as a kid, I was never interested in going to my Vietnamese church or participating in traditional Vietnamese activities. I now regret not taking on these opportunities.
But it is never too late. I’ve lived through 15 years of not maintaining my own cultural identity. However, it’s never too late to start understanding my heritage better.
Now, I try my best to learn to speak Vietnamese. I make the effort to find out about our family history and how we got to where we are today. I take hold of any opportunity to embrace the Vietnamese culture. I want to be able to pass the stories, cultural aspects, and the pride of being Vietnamese on to my kids and the next generation.
It is so critical to maintain your cultural identity. Asian Americans may sometimes be so blindsided by American influences that they overlook their own culture. In addition to the importance of putting aside your cultural differences is embracing diversity and networking with people of all ethnicities. It is so important to embrace who you are and your own ethnicity as well.
Some may feel that because this is America, you no longer need to hold on to your other cultures.
I know that I am proud to be a Vietnamese American and that I want my kids and the next generation to have that same pride in their ethnicity. Therefore, it is important to take hold of your culture, embrace all the opportunities that come your way, and maintain your cultural identity as the generations pass. ♦