I only found out about Georgetown University through my random college searches as a senior in high school. My parents, strict Vietnamese refugee immigrants, were disappointed that their daughter didn’t get accepted by an Ivy League school. In the long run, I’m glad that I didn’t. I’ve carved something out for myself here at Georgetown.
I didn’t always feel as comfortable as I do now. I didn’t know what a “Hoya” was. I had never watched college basketball in my life. I didn’t know what Jesuit ideals were because I was raised Buddhist. I was a Vietnamese American attending a predominately white university. There was no Vietnamese Student Association when I walked through the front gates. But I realized that Georgetown is full of traditions that span back decades, and it was time to create new traditions. I learned that it was OK to not be content. It was OK to question. In fact, it was necessary to question. If I couldn’t find my place here, I needed to create it.
On the evening of Sept. 19, 2007, a small group of Vietnamese students and I met in a living room on Reservoir Road and pounded out the mission statement for what would become Georgetown’s longest-running Vietnamese Student Association. From that moment on, I knew I was part of a growing movement. Because of VSA, I always had a small niche to go to, a group of people I have grown to refer to as my VSA family. It was through this organization and others that I learned how to navigate the extracurricular world of programming and raising awareness.
I wanted to challenge and expand my identity of a Vietnamese American to that of a Vietnamese American in the Asian Pacific Islander American community, to Vietnamese American in the theater community and ultimately in the Georgetown community. I am continually questioning and challenging my identity and prejudices and those of my peers through the various organizations I am involved with, the various programs I plan and, the various discussions in which I am a participant. Through my work with the Asian American Student Association, I’ve held several workshops on APIA identity and representations. I also learned the importance of collaboration after our successful election party event with MEChA and the NAACP. With my involvement in the Black Theatre Ensemble, I became increasingly aware of how important it is to be an ally to communities other than my own. I can always help others learn by sharing a part of myself, but it’s an equally important and necessary kind of learning to partake in another culture and experience.
My most recent initiative was the Sulu DC Showcase, an exhibition of APIA artists that was a collaborative effort between AASA, CF, GUWOC, Hawaii Club, and VSA.. This event is our effort to bring together not just the APIA community but the diverse communities that Georgetown has to offer. It is our attempt to facilitate relationships between organizations and individuals who may not have considered working together. We believe that our Georgetown community would benefit from this cross-cultural exchange and engagement through the arts and entertainment. Along the way, we were able to show how much the APIA community has to offer.
Home for me is no longer a place. Home has become the relationships I’ve built on and off this campus — hanging out on Lau 2 (not studying), talking about life with my English professors and Center for Student Programs advisers, getting up on everybody’s business in the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, sneaking snacks from the LGBTQ Resource Center. It’s about community, collaboration and creating spaces. And to some extent, it’s also about asking myself where or what my home is, and where I fit in — but ultimately, do I really want to? I’ve found in my four years here that at the end of the day, I don’t need to.
Thuy Tran is a senior in the College. She is the co-founder and former president of the Vietnamese Student Association, associate producer of the Black Theatre Ensemble, the former Student of Color Alliance representative and outreach chair for the Asian American Student Association, and a peer mentor in the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access Peer Mentor Program.
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