Honoring a Homeland
Tran, A02, was only six months old when his parents arrived in the
United States from Vietnam in 1980.
Sponsored by a church in a suburb west of Boston, his parents and
an extended family of some 20 relatives were glad to have escaped
to America. They did what had to be done: they went to night school,
learned technical skills, got jobs in the computer industry.
Today, Tran's father works for Hewlett-Packard and his mother runs
her own flag store and works at a high-tech firm. The family has
grown to include Tran's brother, now 17, and sister, 12.
It is an immigrant story of rapid immersion and steadily growing
success. Yet while Tran was quick to take to American culture as
a child, he has grown up in two worlds.On the one hand, he is a
typical college student. His favorite food is pizza, he is learning
the guitar and likes the British band Oasis. Tall and athletic,
he played football and basketball at Burlington High School. He
was a "Special Friend" to a four-year-old at the Tufts
Day Care Center last year, and he volunteered for Kids' Day. He
is majoring in biology and plans to be a doctor. At the same time,
his parents have instilled in him a strong sense of heritage.
"I am very proud to be Vietnamese," says Tran, flashing
a ready smile at a coffee shop before heading off to his job. He
is taking a chemistry course in summer school and working at night
for a bank. "I had a great time when I went back recently to
visit relatives. I realized I could have lived that life too, if
things had been different."
The struggle of his parents, says Tran, shaped his own attitudes
toward work and school. "My parents always treated us with
respect and worked hard to provide us with things they did not have,"
he says. "I saw the sacrifices they made for me. I want to
repay them and to set an example for my brother and my sister."
His parents also always expected him to go to college. "I
got nothing but A's in school, and I think that's because my parents
stressed hard work. I could see them working hard, sometimes holding
down two jobs. That rubbed off on me. My parents never expected
less of me, just that I go to school and do well."
As for choosing Tufts, the choice again was natural. "I wanted
to stay local. My family is a big part of my life," he says.
"I knew I wanted to study science, and Tufts has a good biology
Tran, who speaks Vietnamese, would like to know more about the
history of his homeland; his parents display Vietnamese art in their
home and enjoy listening to Vietnamese music. While his tastes run
in a different direction, a recent trip to visit family in Vietnam
nurtured his own high regard for his native culture.
"When people hear the word Vietnam, I would like them to think
not just about the war, but about a wonderful country that they
should experience," he says. "It is quite beautiful, and
the people live off the land still today, at least where my family
is from; they are very self-sufficient and generous."
Someday Tran hopes to return to Vietnam as a doctor. For now, he's
looking forward to sophomore year and graduating in 2002, a historic
year for Tufts-its 150th anniversary. "Yes, it's great to be
part of that class," he says. "There will be a lot to
celebrate for everyone."