Summer 2013 ISV Magazine Scholarship Finalist: Tram Truong

Tram Truong from Vietnam studying at Texas Tech University is a finalist for the ISV Magazine summer scholarship! Tram explains that achieving the “American dream” is not easy, especially for international students.

Even though I have been living in America for four years, I feel the touch of bitterness in my heart whenever I think about the phrase “American dreams.” As Americans know, millions and millions of people from all around the world come in America to seek for jobs, and dream for better opportunities of receiving good education. However, if life happens smoothly for foreigners in America, there is no existence for the phrase “American dreams” from the very beginning.

First and the biggest challenge for the majority of international students is neither the barrier of the language nor the culture shock, lack of money is even a scarier nightmare. You may be surprised and cannot help yourself exclaim these words “Wow! Why? I thought…” Yes, I may know what you think. Many people think that international students’ family must be wealthy in their home-country in order to support for their expensive tuitions. Out-of-country tuition is always doubled or tripled the tuition of an American student. Besides, an F-1 student visa does not allow to work out of campus where the salary rates are much higher than jobs on campus. Looking at the fact, not every students’ families are wealthy enough to support for either a students’ tuition or living expensive.

Being put in that situation forces a student to seek for jobs out of campus such as being a waitress or a waiter at restaurants, or working at nail shops that the majority of Vietnamese chose to open their businesses illegally. In the worst case, when a student gets caught working illegally, he/she gets sent back to their hometown immediately and may be disqualified to obtain a new visa in a long period of time. In fact, that is sad to know that sixty percent of international students come in America that have to work illegally to make money to feed themselves and continue with their educations. I have just finished getting my Associate Degree in Science at Richland Community College in Dallas where you can see Vietnamese everywhere.  I have many friends who are classified as international students at Richland CC working at local Vietnamese restaurants with a very low salary rate, approximately in the range of four to five dollars an hour. Stories that I have known about Vietnamese international students working without authorization cannot be narrated within a few hours.

Truong_Tram international student voice magazine
The picture I took at a local restaurant where most of the hosts, waitresses, and waiters are current students at my old school

Let me tell you about this real experience. I hang out a lot with a Vietnamese group that have seven students, living in a same rented house in Richardson, Texas. We have been through a lot together, many ups and downs in during the past year. Except for me and one that is working as an OPT student, the other four work out of campus as waitresses and waiters (of course, the payment method is only cash for working without authorized papers). All of my four friends visited Vietnam in May and had to re-interview according to the immigration law. One out of four got denied for the visa because the interviewer at the US Embassy in Vietnam found out that she worked at a restaurant in USA based on a check that was deposited to her American bank account. That check was received by her two years ago when she just started school in USA and my friend did not even remember she ever got it. Another guy has complained about the lack of money to start his education at a four-year university. As his dream of pursuing his degree in computer science, money seems to be a biggest challenge that might force him to get a degree in IT instead of computer science or software engineer.

Many people after knowing about this fact wonder why many foreigners decide to come to America despites these struggles. This wonder is never explained. It is a powerful thing called “American dreams.” It seems unbelievable but it is true and happens every day in this country. I have heard many students complain about their rude bosses, their horrible conditions of the workplaces. Many people feel being disrespected or their increasing angriness or unfair feelings towards others. However, they still wake up every mornings to go to work and accept the fact of their lives because of the only one reason: without money, their dreams in America are truly over. There is no way out.

I just finish school at Richland College and transfer to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas for Fall 2013. The tuition at the new school is much higher than a two-year college. Besides, I pursue a degree in Biochemistry. I discuss with my department advisor and find out that I get the Bachelor Degree in science in three years not two years as I expected it to be. My mom works for a government bank and her monthly salary is just enough to pay for my monthly living expenses in USA. My parents have to work much more to have the money for my education. The funny thing is my dad has been buying lotteries and hoping someday when luck comes for the past two years but seems hopeless.

If I receive this scholarship, it is a humongous help for this semester’s tuition and other expenses. I do not have to worry about finding the sources to get the money from to help pay for my tuition. I can concentrate on studyings. I use the money on books and school fees. A little more than half of this $750 is my textbooks expense for the coming-up semester. My parents save that fourteen million Vietnam dong to take care of my younger siblings. Obviously, $750 is lots of money, extremely helpful, and necessary to get, and covers many parts that also cost much money.

I am extremely appreciate for having this chance to express my feelings about a life of an international students. I love how the topic shows the sympathy for foreigners so I can totally put myself in the essay and be brave enough to speak out what challenges the majority of international students the most.

Here is a funny song about paying monthly rent.

Translation:

Money, money I do not have

The house owner is upsetting

Oh my goodness, I am so afraid!

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