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A Rudd Scholar’s New Perspective On Life

By May 31, 2024No Comments

Our next Scholar Highlight shares Gary Tran’s experience visiting his native country of Vietnam for the first time. This experience has given Gary a new perspective on his personal life, but also his educational opportunities he has living in the United States. Below Gary shares some thoughts on his experience visiting Vietnam, and how the Rudd Scholarship has played a role in his educational journey.

When you were in Vietnam, where did you travel? Who did you visit?

When I went to Vietnam, I went to so many different places! I visited Gò Dầu, Tây Ninh, Vũng Tàu, Cần Thơ, Bà Rịa, the Mekong Delta, and of course Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). In my mother’s hometown, Gò Dầu, I was able to meet my 2 aunts, 1 uncle, a plethora of cousins, and some of my mom’s childhood friends. In my father’s hometown, Vũng Tàu, I was able to meet all 9 of my aunts and uncles, all the cousins that come along with that, and again, meet the childhood friends that my dad would include in his stories! This was such a surreal experience for me just because I was able to put a face and personality to each name that I would hear about when I was younger.

What did you do during the time you were in Vietnam?

Each week varied in what we did because trying to fit such a life-changing event in a month was harder than I expected. The first week consisted of my sister and I getting used to our environment and culture alongside my mom’s side of the family. Gò Dầu was our home base for the entirety of the trip because my aunts and uncles on my mom’s side were gracious enough to let us stay in their home.

The second week we stayed in Vũng Tàu with my dad’s side of the family. Each day consisted of meeting new people in the family and being able to see the town my dad grew up in. My family would take me around and show me what they used to do as kids and what parts they visited a lot. Many community members knew me and my sister as my father’s kids, which was very surprising. They said we looked “American” so it was an easy guess since my dad was one of the only ones able to make it to America.

The third week was spent in Saigon. My sister and I booked a nice hotel in the bustling city which was vastly different from the quiet countryside. The week in Saigon was mostly spent as “tourists” which included trying everything we saw, going on tours, and a lot of shopping! The last week was spent traveling to different areas that my family wanted to take us. It was also spent saying goodbye to all the family I had met throughout the trip. My routine each week consisted of sightseeing, taking in the culture, and meeting so, so many people!

What places did you visit/sightsee while there?

Some main attractions we went to was Bến Thành Market, Bui Vien Walking Street, Ho Chi Minh City Book Street, Black Virgin Mountain, Cao Dai Temple, Vung Tau Beach, Crescent Mall, Saigon Centre, Saigon Observation Deck, Saigon Central Post Office, The Cafe Apartments, Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, The Lotus Bridge, Burning Monk Memorial, Wholesale Flower Market, and Ben Nghe Street Food were some places we visited. There was a lot more sightseeing that did not involve big names such as my grandparents’ resting place, my parents’ elementary schools, and the nature around the surrounding town to name a few.

What was the biggest culture shock for you?

The biggest culture shock for me was by far how comfortable I am in the United States compared to the living conditions my Vietnamese family experienced. I feel like I am a low-maintenance person, but this trip made me sure that I was not compared to my Vietnamese relatives! Things such as hot water, running water, a washer and dryer, mattresses, sinks, and even air conditioning were all things that were a luxury to my mother’s family. I had to get used to it quickly when it came to getting accustomed to the heat, sleeping on thin pads, and even showering out of a bucket!

This made me so grateful for everything that I have back here in the United States. This is not that side that gets glorified on social media. They want to show you all the amazing food, experiences, and luxury hotels they are staying in. No one wants to see the countryside of Vietnam that is disconnected from the rest of the world.

What made you realize how much gratitude you have for your education in the U.S.?

I realized how grateful I was for my education in the United States when I heard about the level of education my aunts, uncles, and cousins have received. None of my aunts and uncles were educated past high school with most of them not even graduating high school. This was due to them having to give up education to make a living and provide for the family. None of them know how to read or write other than basic words used in conversation. Only 1 out of my 20+ cousins has a college education. Most of them lived up to the same fate as their parents, only graduating high school or dropping out to help bring in money to survive.

I have definitely taken my education thus far for granted but hearing my family being so proud and amazed that I was even in college, let alone on a Full-Ride Scholarship, made me realize how much it was value it held for them. I have been much more appreciative of the opportunities that I have, not saying I was not grateful. This experience was just able to give me a different perspective on why I should be so grateful for the amazing support and education that I have.

Please share with us why getting your degree is so important to you?

Getting my degree was already so important to me because growing up, I was constantly taught the value of education. It has become even more important to me after the trip because I want my family to be proud of what one of their own can do! I am not saying everything motivating me is external, because it is quite actually the opposite. I think this external motivation just adds a little more passion and fire to my journey which just reminds me how blessed I am to be where I am at! It is always so great to be able to reflect humbly and see how far you have gotten.

How has the Rudd Foundation helped you throughout your college career?

I am not sure if I can put into words to quantify how much the Rudd Foundation has helped me through my college career, but I will try! Obviously, they took away the overwhelming burden of finances when I was chosen as a Rudd Scholar. However, I did not realize the amount of support I would receive beyond that. From the monthly one-on-ones to semi-annual Rudd Summits to ensuring feeling connected to your campus and community, and even to having someone believe in you day in and day out! That is just a small snippet of what they can provide for me while I continue my college career.

Coming from an unsupportive background, this means so much to have someone care so much for me. College is already challenging enough to step into so having this support system makes a world difference. I really can’t put into words how grateful I am for the Rudd Foundation staff who run the program. This may sound corny, but I really do believe I would not be able to achieve the things I do without them and their support.

Gary’s experience visiting Vietnam was a life changing experience for him on many levels. Meeting family for the first time, experiencing the culture shock, and gaining a new perspective on his education are just a few of those things.

Gary is a rising Junior who is double-majoring in Aerospace Engineering and Health Science with a minor in Chemistry. His goal after graduation is to attend medical school.

We are proud to be able to support Gary through the Rudd Scholarship, but also as an individual. Knowing that he is making history within his family and breaking barriers is what it’s all about. We are beyond #ruddproud of Gary for always pushing himself and showing his #grit #determination and #workethic when it comes to his education and making himself and his family proud.