There is a quietness that exists here that I do not get in Saigon. 

I hear constantly the small hum of a quiet suburbia, a town riddled with stillness and quietness and not much else. Existing in this white town, limited to only the reaches of Extended Campus, is like walking in a skin that is not your own. It is watching your body move and breathe and laugh, and you are away, at a distance, only peering into your life, existing somewhere else entirely. It is a haze that does not feel either true or false, as if America feels only as a pause and you can resume your life whenever summer comes. 

Existing away from your language and culture means a desperation of finding pieces of it anywhere you can. When a Vietnamese waiter talks to only you in Karma, when you walk past small snippets of Vietnamese conversations at H-Mart, when the nail salon women treat you as if close family and invite you over for canh—these are the moments where I forget I am surrounded by unfamiliarity, when this town becomes less foreign, and where I finally feel at home. When you are three thousand miles away from everything, you have to pick up pieces of family wherever you can.

Concord Academy is diverse, or it claims itself to be. I have never felt like a minority or person of color until I came to CA. Asians make up a good percentage of the population, but we are often grouped into the umbrella of simply Asian, when our cultures are vast and in between and often extremely different. We cannot be clustered to be one in the same and call it diversity. Our experience is extraordinarily different from those of Asian Americans, even if CA likes to act like it is not. You cannot accept one Vietnamese, or one Thai, or one Indonesian a year to fill an unspoken quota and check a list and call it diversity. We are not a commodity that is only here to add to a list of countries to flaunt this school’s global and diversified student population. I am only speculating, but I cannot help wondering why a white, private, prep school in Massachusetts would go through all the trouble of having us here. When international students make up ten percent of the population, it feels as though our needs are often grouped together with other local borders. When a CA-arranged trip to the airport costs an upward of a hundred dollars, when we are forced to scramble to find places to stay for Thanksgiving, when we are not offered financial aid despite every other boarding school being able to afford it, and when Lunar New Year is brushed off and forgotten, I cannot help but wonder why we are here. Like Lisa Liu ’22 said in her chapel, “CA demands the most from its (mostly Asian) international students but supports them the least.”

For now, I have found solace in the little things. Like teaching my friends Tien Len, and listening to V-Pop, and ordering take-out, and enjoying the quiet of this town. I am grateful for Concord for everything, and I am more grateful for the family I have made here. Pick up pieces of culture, wherever you go.