To this day, I have never really had a real sleepover. Going to college was the first time I really had the sleepover experience for an extended amount of time. That was hard enough on my parents, my mom especially. They played around with the idea of me commuting to college so I could stay and sleep at home, but I wanted the full experience. So, my freshman year, they helped me pack for my dorm.
They still worry about me living on my own on campus. Although I’m older, the fear of me not sleeping near them to know that I’m safe and protected keeps them up at night sometimes.
I’ve talked to friends in college who have spent weekends at their friends’ houses; sleepovers were a part of their childhood. For me, I could only really experience that through movies, and now college.
In about three months, I am about to embark on the biggest long-term sleepover of my life: studying abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
For my Vietnamese parents, this was earth shattering. They wondered what benefits I would receive from studying abroad as many students come to the United States to educate themselves. My own cousins from Vietnam wanted to come to the United States to study but never had the opportunity to. My parents had immigrated to this country for the educational future of my brother and me. It was almost insulting that I wanted to study abroad while living in America.
That’s just it: I’ve never really lived in another country on my own. I could never truly say how good I’ve got it (or not) in the United States unless I’ve experienced living in another country on my own.
Going on trips to Vietnam with my family over the summer every four years has taught me so much about culture, society and interactions between people. I come back to the United States with more questions than answers about why I am the way I am. I use those questions to try to get answers when I’m back home.
Convincing my parents to let me study abroad was not easy. It was hard to translate my feelings from English to Vietnamese. The primary reason for their concern was finances. In order to show them I was serious about studying abroad, I had to develop a financial plan and pick up two more jobs. Photography became more of a job that made me money, which was a cycle I never wanted to fall into, but now I’m pushing to get myself out of it and to develop more creative projects.
With my parents, I had to show them that I was serious through actions. Now that I have appeased them in that way, the next part, which I have been working on, is emotional. The Vietnamese culture and family is very close-knit. I grew up with constant familial support all around me. Studying abroad would make me lose that physical sense of comfort, which I believe will make me stronger but might cripple me at the very beginning.
It’s an interesting paradox: My parents and I have unspoken emotions when it comes to me studying abroad, but through generational and language barriers, it’s difficult to get our mindsets on the same wavelength. Action and results have proven myself to them so far. I can only hope that when I come back from New Zealand, their little girl that they wouldn’t allow to have sleepovers will be a mature young woman in their eyes.
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.