As humans, we sometimes become so preoccupied with our own lives that we do not take the time to stop and look at the beauty surrounding us. We all walk with a story. We could learn a lot from one another, if we took the time to meet one extra person each day. I had the pleasure to interview an interesting person that I now call a friend.
Meet Toan D. Le, a 20 year old student from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Toan grew up in a friendly environment, in the suburbs of an industrialized town. He misses the constant smell of coffee and tea that surrounded him all his life in Vietnam, which he holds close to his heart and feels is still part of his identity. His family owns a small textile company and has worked hard to get to where they are. His strength comes from watching his parents, and his goal is to one day put their company on a national scale. Yes, Toan has dreams!
At only 17 years old, before even finishing high school, Toan was admitted to Pierce College in Washington State, and obtained an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration. I was astonished at the courage this young man exhibited. Most teenagers cry at the thought of being away from home at that age; let alone moving to a different country. But there was a spark in Toan’s eyes. He has a quiet confidence that screams I am here for a reason. Presently a senior and pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics at SUNY Plattsburgh, Toan’s goal is to one day work for a fortune 500 company, then, eventually become a millionaire and philanthropist. You might think this a bit far-fetched, but one must speak into existence in order to achieve, and I must say he made me a believer!
Toan’s experience in America has been good for him, however, many things come with obstacles. Toan struggled with culture shock and a language barrier when he first arrived in America. His culture is much more conservative; so he had to adjust to the American way of life. As Toan mentioned, “when you cannot speak a language it disables you from connecting with people”. I can relate to that statement. I once was a girl from Guinea that had a hard time connecting with American culture. I come from a family with high values and morals, which made it difficult for me to connect with the free spirits I met along the way in school. I eventually learned to balance who I am with my surroundings, and I must say that after high school I once again became the vibrant girl that I was as a child without compromising myself. I no longer felt different. I simply felt unique.
As individuals we can either choose to hide behind our handicap, or we can choose to break barriers and connect with others. Like knocking two birds with one stone, Toan and I learned to communicate the best way we possibly could, and as a result not only did our English improve, but also our lives. We spoke to whoever we could connect with; it did not matter what their background was, or whether they were Asian, Brazilian, or American. There is nothing more beautiful than a person unraveling and breaking through his or her shell. Once you let your inner beauty shine through, there is no turning back. I can say that is the meaning of happiness.
In life we can either choose to push forward or stand still, and we chose to channel our energy forward. My friend Toan would like to eventually speak 4 languages. He presently speaks Vietnamese and English fluently; and like the entrepreneur that he is, he would like to add Spanish and Chinese to the list.
Often times those that come from abroad have dreams larger than life. We hold ourselves up to a higher standard, and we feel as though there is no room for failure. Toan transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh last fall and is already a resident assistant, president of V-Nation the Vietnamese Student Association (which is doing quite well on campus), and holds a 3.88 GPA. It wasn't always peaches and cream, but he learned to stay focused on becoming the best he can be. He is currently interning with Donlan and Barcomb Investment Services in Plattsburgh, where he analyzes and ranks stocks, and makes decisions whether to sell, hold or buy. My buddy is already on his way to work for a fortune 500 company.
It’s an inspiration to see a young man with goals. A young man that knows exactly what he wants. I hope this story inspires each and anyone of us to strive. We may not have the same dreams, but we can all decide to accomplish our own individual dreams. If a young man from Vietnam is on his way to achieving the American dream, we can all strive to achieve our own version of the American dream.
With strength, determination and positivity anything is possible!