Growing up as a First Generation Hmong American proved to be both an honor and a challenge at the same time. With both of my parents being born outside of the United States, it showed me that both determination and hard work could lead to a future filled with abundant success.
Escaping the Nightmare
Since I was young, my parents would tell their stories about escaping the nightmare of the war when the Northern Vietnamese communist forces invaded Laos. Both of my parents were born in Laos, which is a country located in southeastern Asia. During the Vietnam War and Laotian Civil War, or as many Hmong Americans call it, the ‘Secret War’, over 10,000 people died while fighting for their country.My parents were lucky enough to escape the dangerous terrains of Laos, but each had their respective paths. My father, his parents, and his younger sister and brother immigrated directly to Minnesota in the early 1980s, while my mother and her family immigrated to Southern France before moving to Minnesota when she was 16. Both of my parents ended up earning their high school diplomas here in the U.S., with my mother graduating in the top of her class. My father then went on to earn his bachelor's degree IT Management, and my mother earned her bachelors in Business Management and Finance. Their success has inspired me to strive for the best and to never give up no matter the circumstances.
Preserving the Culture
Growing up I always wondered why I was different from everyone else. I knew that I had a different skin tone and that I was Hmong, but the question was, why? Sometimes I wondered why I couldn’t be “like everyone else”. As a first generation, I can see how groups like the Hmong have assimilated into American culture. As I grew older, I lost most of my knowledge of the Hmong language, as I mostly spoke English to my friends and my family. My grandmother would always tell me in Hmong, “Always keep your heritage and never stop speaking Hmong”. To this day, I generally understand the language, but I barely speak the language. Because of this, I feel like living in our society today slightly hinders the expression of these cultures and that they are forced to adapt or else they are viewed as “different”. For me, I’ve always felt more “Americanized” my entire life as a first generation, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but from people like my father who emphasizes on preserving culture adds another layer of pressure.
My Life as a Student
Being a first generation born in the U.S. has inspired me to be that hardworking and driven student that I want to be. I knew that even my parents, who started out their lives in the midst of political turmoil in Laos, could achieve success. Starting at a young age, school has always been important to, but once middle school hit, I was so determined to do things like getting on the ‘A’ Honor Roll and be the best I could be. When I got my first B, I can remember how devastated I felt while the tears rolled down my cheeks. There were so many emotions running in my head about how I wasn’t good enough, and how I disappointed my parents were, but little did I know at the time my parents always said to do my best and that’s all that they could ask for. Being a 7th grader, I didn’t really know how to take that statement when I set the bar so high for myself. I am now an incoming Junior and I now know the full meaning of that statement because of the endless love and support from my parents. It’s not all about the letter grade, but it’s about what you’ve learned while earning that grade. So far in my high school career, I’ve taken all Honors courses which included multiple Advanced Placement courses. Next year I am taking a total of three AP courses which is pretty overwhelming, but I am more than confident that the support from my parents, and the values that were instilled in me will help me through this upcoming school year.
Looking Towards the Future
Immediately after school ended this year I began obsessing about how I was going to get into college. I spent endless days and nights thinking about my future. What was I going to do? Where was I going to go? How was I going to do it? I didn’t know why I was stressing about it since I knew that I really didn’t have to make any permanent decisions until the end of Junior year. I guess the fact that I am a first-born in the United States has always influenced me to try to surpass my peers when it came to academics. My goal in life is to make sure I would live the ‘American Dream’, but what I wasn’t aware that I was already living that dream thanks to my parents. As I’ve said in this article, I wouldn’t even be here writing this article if it wasn’t for them. I would’ve not had the infinite amount of perseverance, courage, and bravery to be writing this article. At some point in every teenager’s life, including mine, there’s that moment where you just want your parents to leave you alone. Trust me, I’ve been there, but in the end, your parents are always going to be there for you. This year for me involves many college visits and tours, stressing about AP classes, extracurricular activities, and finding that one college (but let’s be real here, more like a list of ten), that is perfect for me before applying next fall. I know for a fact that every step of the way there, my parents will be with me, leading all the way to when I receive my diploma, to dropping me off at my dream school.