“There were no skyscrapers”: An international student’s experience in America

International student Louise Lee shares her experience at Pierce after coming to America from Vietnam.

Nyadeng Mal, Reporter

Louise Lee is an international student from Vietnam in her second year at Pierce College Puyallup. Lee was a normal teenager going to school in Vietnam and was shocked when her parents pulled her from her high school and told her she would be going to America to study. She wasn’t excited to leave her friends behind for an American education and the thought of starting over in a new country was overwhelming.

“Coming to the U.S was not my idea, my parents just said, ‘You’re going,’” Lee said. “At first it was annoying because I was going to pursue the dream that’s not mine.”
Most students can relate that school without friends would be hard to get through, but starting in a new country with a different culture and customs is not something many students have to deal with.

Lee was expecting America to look like the exaggerations displayed in foreign television and was in for a shock when she came to Washington where it was green with mountains, and not many skyscrapers.
“The most shocking thing is there were no skyscrapers and a lot of urban areas, you just realize that America is so big,” Lee said.

Although she was in unknown territory, Lee has made the most her American education. Lee, who was lonely, shy and unhappy, took the necessary steps to make her American experience a good one. She started by changing her major from the one her parents chose to one that made her happy.
“My parents wanted me to be like a doctor, I just thought to myself, ‘umm, I can’t do that,’ so I just decided to change my major, they were angry but I don’t really care,” Lee said, laughing.
Lee is now leaning towards agricultural biology. She says she’s happy with her choice to change her major and believes if she’s going to be stuck doing something for the rest of her life it will be something she enjoys.

Even though Lee comes from a different culture, she can relate to other students in the sense that most college students don’t really know where they belong once starting college. However, coming from another country as a teenager can be even more difficult.
“I was a little depressed at first,” Lee admitted. “I felt there was no one with the same voice as me.”

She felt like she couldn’t relate to her peers because she didn’t have an American upbringing and couldn’t relate to many American students.

“I had a friend who was super outgoing and I just wondered ‘how can he do that?’” Lee said of her friend Nhan Ta, who was also an international student from Vietnam and Diversity and Equity coordinator for the Office of Student Life last year. Ta graduated from Pierce College Puyallup last year but left an impact on students like Lee. She admired his outgoingness and felt a connection to him being from the same country. She felt the confidence to be as outgoing as him and wanted to be just like him, so she decided to start going to clubs. Lee represented International Club at the club fair last year.

“I had to dress in my traditional clothing,” Lee said. “It felt weird but people really like my traditional Vietnamese outfit; it was a small act but it really made me happy and triggered me to want to do the same for others.”  

Lee said she was once shy and wanted to blend in, but was inspired to create her own community.

Lee is the creator and president of Choreography Club, which meets every Friday from 1-2 p.m. She feels it’s changed her college experience for the better.
“In my club, there are so many people from different backgrounds and I think that physical activity brings people together more than talking, I feel more open now.” Lee is also running for the international chair position for American Honors.

“We spend a lot of money coming here for an education but it’s not everything for me,” said Lee, who believes education is important but relationships and experience are more important to her.  
After her last year at Pierce, Lee hopes to travel to Europe where her sister is studying as an international student. She hopes to close out her last year at Pierce doing the things she loves like Choreography Club and hanging out with her friends.

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“There were no skyscrapers”: An international student’s experience in America

by Nyadeng Mal time to read: 3 min