Coming from a middle class family in Vietnam, my parents were really pushing my siblings and me to be involved in school. When I was young, I had to live far away from my family. In kindergarten my mom sent me to live with my sisters. My sisters went to another city to study, and my mom did not want them to feel alone. Living far away from family for a long time helped me to be independent. However, I had a hard time when I decided to come to the United States to study. It was a tremendous change in my life. I grew up a hundred thousand miles away from Minnesota on the opposite side of the planet, in Vietnam.

My earliest memories are cross walks and tiny little shop on the street. I learned how to ride a bike, I learned not to give up on my dreams. I fell in love with the city I grew up in. I watched the candy store down the street from my grandma’s house become an Italian restaurant, then become a Japanese Deli, become a clothing store and become the sale sign. My city sheds its skin and reinvented itself over and over again. And within it, I am always in a continuous process of reinventing myself and becoming who I am today. Christmas five years ago, when everyone was celebrating the best time of the year with their family at home, I was on my way to the airport, believing that someday I will become a better version of myself. And I did, by being here today right now. Five years is a long time but it felt like it was just yesterday I learned a lot of new things here about the culture, history, and improved on my English. Although sometimes I felt really lonely and wanted to give up, I thought about my family and it made me stronger. I realized that I need to try and never give up because I can be successful when I try my best.

When I came here, I realized the meaning of difference.  I better understood my identities and sexuality, with the help of the relationships I had built. Through recognizing my differences, I have acknowledged the privileges that I have. I want to fight and advocate for the people that are less fortunate than me. Regardless of the separation in the current political atmosphere, this is the time for us to stand together. This is the time for all of us to use our privileges to protect our trans siblings. This is the time for us to advocate for those with mental illnesses and disabilities. This is the time for us to fight for women’s rights, human rights. We need to pick each other up off the ground and help to build ourselves to become better people – a better society for all. My journey with leadership in college has not only given me knowledge, but has also helped shape me to be a better person. Looking back five years ago, I was a complete stranger to myself. I did not know who I was or what my purpose was. Now I know it is my responsibility to stand up with my sisters, brothers and non-binary family. This is why diversity and communities are significant. And this is the time for you to fight for what you believe in.