Chase: To begin, what country are you from?

Tyler: I am originally from Vietnam. I was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, and I’ve lived there since I was three.

Chase: All righty. So how long have you been here before then?

Tyler: Well, I’m 19 years old now, so I’ve been here since I was three, and from then till now it’s been 16 years since I moved.

Chase: Nice. Okay. So, do you have family here?

Tyler: When I first moved, no, I did not have a family here. My entire branch, one branch of my family moved to America. Because I moved to America with my aunt and uncle, and that’s how the family got started in America.

Chase: Okay. So, when you moved over here with your aunt and uncle, was there a reason why? Just your aunt and your uncle came?

Tyler: So, it’s kind of a long story. But my aunt and uncle moved for better opportunities initially. They came back to Vietnam to pick me up to go to America, mainly because I got really sick in Vietnam and because it’s so hot due to the fact that Vietnam is geographically located close to the equator, and so it’s always hot and humid there. My body just couldn’t take the heat. They took me to America. So, I get professional healthcare. And since then I’ve been healthy.

Chase: Good. Good. So, what do you do?

Tyler: Currently I go to school at Penn State Lehigh Valley. I’m doing the two plus two programs. So next year I’ll be going University Park to continue my education. At the moment I am a tutor as well as a photographer who works for commission.

Chase: All right. Okay. So how did you end up in the Lehigh Valley?

Tyler: I ended up going to Penn State Lehigh Valley because it was closer to home. My hometown in Pennsylvania is in Quakertown, which is about a 20- minute drive. I ended up in the Lehigh Valley because of education.

Chase: Okay. And you mentioned that you were three years old when you left your country.

Tyler: Yes.

Chase: And why did you leave? What was your journey like? And you came with your aunt and your uncle, but what really made you guys leave? And upon hearing about America, were you scared, excited? Were you comfortable?

Tyler: So, I moved to America, like I’ve stated, because I was physically unfit to live in Vietnam. And so initially they took me in so that I would get professional health care for my illness. And then once I got better, it turned out that luck was in my favor and I was given the opportunity to live with them.
And so, in a sense, I was adopted by my aunt and uncle, and I’ve lived with them ever since from Vietnam to America. It’s still a little bit hazy due to the fact that I moved when I was three. And so, I can’t even remember the fine details, but from what I can tell you, the transition was relatively smooth. I was a quick learner, so learning the language of English and everything and learning the customs of America, it was relatively quick for me and I assimilated pretty quickly.

Chase: Right. When you arrived, what was your first impression? Anything that surprised you?

Tyler: Yeah, so I’m like any other immigrant. I thought America was just filled with high rises and skyscrapers, typical New York City. But upon coming here, I realized that not all of America is just high rises and skyscrapers. So along with that, I was also given the idea of my own American dream and I viewed America as the land of opportunity, much like other immigrants that have come here prior to me as well. And I still believe that to this day, America is a land of opportunity. And it gives me a lot of doors that I can open in order to be successful. Whereas if I had lived in Vietnam, those doors would definitely have been limited, to my growth.

Chase: What was your biggest challenge?

Tyler: I guess my biggest challenge was just making friends. Because when I came to America, and I lived with my family, I was a pretty awkward kid. We didn’t go out that often because my family was practically alienated from actual society. They would only go out for groceries and to work. Other than that, we don’t interact with our neighbors. We don’t go out to talk to people. We’ve gotten a lot better now. But when we first came here, it was very, very hard to make friends from around the area. And, so going to school was pretty difficult just because I didn’t grow up with a foundation of the close friends that other people were born into. It became a lot easier as I grew older and as I learned more how to be independent with myself. But when I first came here, it was fairly difficult to make friends.

Chase: So, have you lived in any other places?

Tyler: Yes, actually. I first came here living in Red Bank, New Jersey, and I lived with my aunt, uncle, and my grandparents and fun fact, my uncle was adopted by my grandparents who came from Sweden. So, I have an extended family of European descent, which is pretty cool. So, we lived with them for about three years. And then we moved to New York City, where my dad worked, and we lived there for about a year and a half. And then we eventually came to Quakertown in Pennsylvania where we’ve lived ever since. I liked it there. The neighborhood that I’m from has a lot of very social neighbors, and so we know each other very well.

Chase: Now going back to the last question about your biggest challenge, when did you break that sheet of ice and start making more friends? Interacting with more people?

Tyler: So, it all has to do with confidence. And I didn’t get that confidence in me until I started to be more involved in school. I was involved in track and field. I was involved in tennis. I wasn’t involved in any other extracurricular clubs besides sports, but sports definitely opened the doors for me to make new friends, as well as teammates. So, from there I was able to build up my circle of friends with other people. And from there I became more of an introverted extrovert. I interacted with a lot more people from my school.

Chase: Good, good. Because I know that especially in college, they really stress about joining clubs.

Tyler: Oh yeah. You know, to meet more people and once you do, they say the campus just feels a lot smaller cause you basically know most everyone.

Chase: Exactly.

Tyler: Which is why I do really like a Penn State Lehigh Valley just because of the fact that we are a very, very small campus. Despite that we have a very active community. And I, when I joined these clubs for Penn State, Lehigh Valley, I made a lot more friends. In a shorter amount of time than I did in high school. Because in high school it was a very slow learning process. And then I guess my mindset kind of switched as soon as I got to college and I began to make a lot more friends than I thought. And I’ve loved it ever since.

Chase: So, do you have any family in your country of origin?

Tyler: Most of my family is in Vietnam. We are one of the few that have come to America and stayed. Aside from that, I am very, very active in my extended family here in America, and I’ve interacted with them a lot more, mainly because of convenience and people in Vietnam are very busy, especially when the time zones are very different. It’s literally a 12-hour difference in time. So, when you’re asleep, they’re awake. When they’re awake, you’re asleep. And so, it’s very, very hard to keep in touch with them for an extended amount of time just because of the time differences. And so that’s why I kind of associate myself with the family that I have here. Especially with my grandparents from Sweden and their children and their grandchildren. I keep very close in touch with them.

Chase: Yeah, I understand that because I actually have an aunt that lives in England, so, you know, different times zones that can be difficult. But I’m guessing you reach out to them as much as you can.
Tyler: Yes, I do try. And actually, the last time I visited Vietnam was about seven, eight years ago. So, it’s been a very long time since I came back. They’ve always wondered where I am, how I’ve been, and I think it’s just important to kind of like keep in touch with them every now and then to let them know that you’re cool.

Chase: So, what do you miss the most about your country? Or just what do you miss overall?

Tyler: Right, just based on my trips there, because those are the times that I mostly remembered is that, I miss interacting with my family. Right now, the language barrier is kind of getting to me because I know more English than I do with Vietnamese. So, I find it very hard to kind of articulate my thoughts and communicate with them effectively because of the language barrier. I remember going to Vietnam and actually learning my language more and being more comfortable in using it because we talk in Vietnamese, the entire three months I was there. And so being in Vietnam actually really helped me in keeping in touch with my family and because I hadn’t visited in so long, it’s kind of been hard to kind of associate with them in a sense.

Chase: Right. So ,would you ever go back there to live?

Tyler: Absolutely not. As much as I miss my family, I just do not think that Vietnam is the right place for me to live. I’m very confident in visiting it sometime in the future, but it’s not a place for me to live. Mainly because of the fact that I got really sick from being in very hot conditions.

Chase: Right, and I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but you mentioned a heat stroke, do those still occur?

Tyler: No, the heat strokes occurred because of really hot temperatures. Because there is little air conditioning in Vietnam. Literally the only form of cooling technology that we have is a fan. And when you’re blowing hot air in your face, it’s still hot air. And so, it doesn’t really help. From what I’ve learned from my doctor visits is that I was also very dehydrated and suffered from malnutrition. I was malnourished. And so, with all those factors put into place, I got sick very, very easily. And from what I’ve been told, I was in the hospital more when I was living in Vietnam. And the times that I visited Vietnam, every single time I would feel nauseous and dizzy because of how hot it is, like the average temperature there is around a hundred degrees and to me, I just can’t live there. But it’s definitely a place where I would spend my vacation time in.

Chase: Right. So, it sounds like it’s a nature versus nourishment. Does that make sense?

Tyler: Yes. So, nature, you know, just the surroundings, everything wasn’t the greatest.

Chase: Exactly. So how is life here different from where you came from?

Tyler: We went over the weather, right? So, life here has been a lot more fast- paced. Everyone is very objective. They set their minds to do something. They go ahead and do it. The culture in Vietnam very different. And we take our time to do things. We take our time to be more in the present and be very social.
And so, coming to America, it was a totally different atmosphere because a lot of people are really conservative. They don’t really go out and interact with strangers as much as we do in Vietnam. And so, when I first came and I try to talk to somebody in broken English, they sort of just laughed it off and walked away.
They’re very to themselves. And so that was one of the big differences that I’ve noticed from Vietnam. Another big difference is that America is a lot more clean than Vietnam because they have less pollutants. We actually take care of our air very well. We try to limit our carbon footprint, whereas in Vietnam, everyone is on mopeds. Streets and different shops and locations are very, very dirty. It’s not kept very well. And so coming here, I do like that a lot.

Chase: Yeah. We try our best to keep the environment clean. (expletive). Nowadays all the sustainability efforts happening. So, are you able to do things here that you did in your home country? With special holidays costumes?

Tyler: For the most part my family is very active in the Vietnamese community here in Pennsylvania, and so we do have a lot of traditions that we try to upkeep. There’s a Vietnamese New Year and basically it’s kind of like Chinese New Year, where we all get together.
We celebrate the new year. But apart from that, we kind of have already assimilated into the American culture. We celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween. I would like to say that we’re kind of the hybrid family. I know that there’s a lot of immigrant families out there, still really trying to be aligned with their original culture and not have any other cultural impact, that they are trying to maintain. But in our case, we have really branched out into the different cultures, especially when my extended family is white. And so, they do a lot of American nights. Holidays. So that’s what we do now.

Chase: Okay. So, you mentioned your extended family.

Tyler: Yes.

Chase: So what about your extended family? How are they?

Tyler: So my uncle was adopted by my grandparents and funny story is that my grandpa adopted my uncle as a Christmas present to my grandma. And so that was really funny. And they’re honestly, the most amazing individuals you’ll ever meet. And the family that they have are so inclusive with us. Because when you look at their family tree, we’re the only Asian part of their family. And yet they still treat us as if we’re their own. And I find that very, very important to me. Like, I have an Uncle Rich, who is a police officer. Because I know you Chase, you said that you wanted to become a police officer.

Chase: Yeah. Get my criminology degree.

Tyler: Yeah. He was a correctional officer as well, and so I know that can be tough, stressful.

Chase: Exactly.

Tyler: And a lot of his beliefs and behavior radiates to the entire family. And so, we developed certain characteristics from our family that we have, especially from our extended family, which is why we celebrate the things we celebrate and why.
We’re trying to branch out more.

Chase: Good. What do you like about living in Pennsylvania?

Tyler: What I like currently is that I have a bunch of friends here that I really do like, and I love trips to Philadelphia that I would make every now and then. There’s a nice landmark.

Chase: I know. It’s very nice.

Tyler: And Pennsylvania, it’s just a beautiful state, with a lot of nature. When you go venture out into the middle of Pennsylvania it’s like a bunch of valleys and hills, and it’s very pleasing when you drive to University Park and you’d see a bunch of trees and fields and everything. And so, it’s quite pleasant.
It’s very tranquil. It’s not too crazy as Jersey and New York City, which are places that I’ve lived before. But I still do miss having that hectic lifestyle. But apart from that, I really like Pennsylvania.

Chase: Good. So, I’m glad you like it. So you’re saying you really liked the openness.

Tyler: Yes. So on the way up there (to Penn State), would be a bunch of mountains, you know, it’d be very nice, very open. And I actually applied to Temple and NYC. The reason I even chose Penn State was because of the fact that despite being a very, very large university, we are conveniently located in a very quiet town. And I’m talking about University Park, not even the Commonwealth campuses. Whereas, let’s say Temple for example, that’s in Philadelphia. And because I’ve lived in city environments before, I don’t think that it would have been a good idea for me to go because of the environment. I think that being able to have a quiet environment really helps me make new friends and helps me stay on top of things because, in the city environment, everything was very spontaneous.

Chase: Right. I know what you mean. So, you miss the hecticness from Vietnam?
Oh, no, actually, no, you don’t.

Tyler: I don’t, In Vietnam, the infrastructure there is very unorganized. As much as they say they’re very organized. Like you could go out in the street and you have different vendors and people trying to sell their merchandise or their food. People and no sidewalks. In Vietnam, it’s just a dirt road, and that’s it. So as soon as you walk out of your house, you’re already in traffic.

Chase: Oh boy.

Tyler: Yeah. And all the homes are actually next to each other.
There’s no gaps at all. So, you could be living next to a shop. You could be living next to a mechanic or hospital. So, there was no structure. When it comes to, like traffic and infrastructure in Vietnam, whereas in America, everything has like rules and regulations that we have to keep in order for like people to use your cars or to be safe, especially the children because traveling outside of your house, it’s pretty dangerous, especially when people are very, very reckless and Vietnam, and they’re driving mopeds. So, they’re not in cars where they’re safe, they crash if they crash, and their lives can be at risk.

Chase: Right. Yeah. I remember seeing a video. This was back in high school. You know, the traffic lights, some places don’t have traffic lights. They know when to go and not to go. It’s just a lot more hectic than it would be in America.

Tyler: Exactly.

Chase: Were people severely injured or hurt?

Tyler: Yeah, and that’s one of the things I like about America is that because we have so many laws, rules and regulations, some that may be good, others, I see as being sort of like a safe place, for immigrants, especially myself. Knowing the environments that I’ve lived before coming to America, definitely gave me a sense of ease.

Chase: And with that being said, what do you dislike about living in Pennsylvania?

Tyler: Dislikes of Pennsylvania. There’s not enough going on, I believe in Pennsylvania, it’s a relatively quiet state. Like the reason I loved New Jersey was because it had the same settings as Pennsylvania, except it had the Jersey shore.
It had large amusement park and actually fun fact, they just opened the largest mall in America in New Jersey.

Chase: They did.

Tyler: It’s called the American dream. Ironically. And like New Jersey is such a forward-thinking state. And I honestly miss that a lot, whereas in Pennsylvania, I don’t know about anyone else, but from where I live, the roads aren’t really the best roads to drive on. There’s a lot of potholes. There are better places to live, honestly. But just because of the familiarity of Pennsylvania, I think that it is sort of like a home to me.

Chase: So, you’re thinking more things can be done to better the environment with what you’re saying about potholes and stuff?

Tyler: There’s so many potholes, right?

Chase: Exactly. So, what makes you feel welcome here?

Tyler: What makes me feel welcome here? Well, it’s definitely a sense of community that makes me feel welcome here. Because I’m so involved on campus, everyone kind of sees me as a person that they can go to. And so, I interact a lot around my day and I make time for the things that I like to do, people that I like to interact with. And so that in and of itself makes me feel welcome, Penn State, and especially makes me feel welcome.

Chase: Good. And is there anything that makes you feel unwelcome?

Tyler: No. If anything, as college students, I’m sure it applies to anyone else, is that after I graduate, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I mean, I have a major pathway, but the transition from a college life into an adult life is very different in America than it is in Vietnam. Because in Vietnam, as soon as you get out of like high school, you’re already like working. And if you are even going to go to college, you are working on top of going to college and you have that same job the entire time. Even if you’re getting an education, you’re just getting an education for credibility, rather than opening the doorway to other opportunities, which is why I liked America so much. Because if you’re going for a certain degree, you’re getting to get a job that utilizes that degree.

Chase: Right. I completely agree with that. And I mean, even now, I know I’m going for criminology, but I’m not sure.

Tyler: It’s kind of like a double-edged sword in a way. Like in America, we have a lot of opportunity, but I think we have a lot, like too much opportunity to the point where it overwhelms a lot of people. And so when they come to America, especially new immigrants, I was fortunate enough to come as a very young age.
But as new immigrants, it can be extremely overwhelming to find a place to seek safety.

Chase: So, have you had any important moments getting here since getting here?

Tyler: A really heartfelt moment was probably my first snowflake. I remember going outside of my grand-parent’s house for the first-time during winter and just being able to absorb how cold it is and how soft the snow felt in my hands.

Chase: Because you don’t get that in Vietnam.

Tyler: Vietnam is located literally at the equator. And so, it’s always hot, hot, hot. I was never able to experience what it’s like to be cold. And so, I experienced my first runny nose, my first cold. Like it was a lot of good feeling moments that I’ve felt since coming here and I still do, to this day.

Chase: Oh yeah, that’s a lot to take in.

Tyler: Definitely.

Chase: When you heard that each snowflake is different…

Tyler: That was weird because I kind of just assumed that all snowflakes are just the same. I didn’t know if they had intricate patterns. Like I remember in science class, we would look at microscopes. And look at snowflakes under those microscopes and they would be different colors. So, it was really cool.

Chase: Yeah. So, have you had any particularly different difficult moments where you wondered why you came, and made you wonder, why am I here?

Tyler: No, because ever since I came, I never regretted it. As a matter of fact, I was actually thankful for coming here. Mainly due to the fact that I was able to get away from a relatively poor economic country, to a very good one. And so, I see it as an act of thankfulness, especially to my parents. They brought me over and I try to take in every single opportunity I can. To make the best out of every situation I’m in. Because I know that a lot of people don’t get this opportunity to go to America. And I believe that it’s an amazing country to come to and live. And so, in order to make the best out of it, I got to make the best out of every situation.

Chase: That’s a good outlook in life. Were there any important figures in your life? Like I know in America, Rocky’s such a huge icon to a lot of people.

Tyler: Yeah, definitely my uncle, because he had an even crazier life story than I do. He came here, he was one of the Vietnamese boat people, and so they seek refuge. He came over here on a boat that was about 15 meters, and they fit about 25 to 30 people in that boat. So, there were not a lot space at all. He came over here through an adoption center of a church, and that’s how my grandparents picked them up. And so because he’s had such a hard life and he’s managed to build himself from the very bottom up, I find that as an inspiration for me to continue doing what I’m doing and tried to exceed his expectations. And that’s good.

Chase: So, what was it that your parents did? Like jobwise.

Tyler: So, my father is a software engineer at a company and my mom works at a nail salon. And so, they’re very, very busy people. And I admire their grit and their perseverance because they had a stressful life and they managed to build a life that was easier to transition when I came over.

Chase: Good. Well, with that being said, uh, it puts an end to this interview. Tyler, thank you for allowing me to ask you these questions.

Tyler: Thank you to be a part of your interview.