Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2022, 23(1): 131–32
As part of the National Collegiate Honors Council’s (2022) collection of essays about the value of honors to its graduates (1967–2019), the author reflects on the personal and professional impacts of the honors experience.
Growing up as a child of immigrants in a predominantly white community, I felt the tension of an identity crisis early on. I remember being the only Vietnamese person in my class and having to explain why my mom packed me rice for lunch instead of sandwiches. I remember not being able to make friends easily at school, instead seeking out other Vietnamese children down the street or playing with my cousins. Instead of my having doctors or lawyers as parents, my father worked at a meat packing plant and my mother worked at a nail salon. As I grew up, recognizing the differences between me and my peers became less of a choice and more of my reality. I am not ashamed of my background, but it created enough differences that I felt a divide between myself and my classmates. My own identity had become a barrier to belonging.