Thoughts of a Foreign Student: From the Outside Looking In


Alex Delmonico, Reporter

After emigrating from Vietnam to the United States 3 years ago, junior student Cuong Pham has had time to get adjusted to American culture and life as a student at James Bowie High School. 

Vietnam and America are two drastically different countries with different rules and regulations. Things that Americans find normal may confuse people moving to America for the first time.

It’s a lot (of differences),” Pham said. “The school doesn’t have uniforms; in Vietnam, from 1st grade to 12th you always have a uniform. In America some schools have uniforms but really most US schools don’t need to have one. Another thing is in Vietnam you have to be 18 or 21 to drive but in the US you have to be 16.”

Students who were taught English as their first language may take it for granted, since there are many students like Pham who had to learn English while also dealing with schoolwork and a new and unfamiliar atmosphere.

“When I began, I thought school would train my English skills, but I think I’m still bad at English,” Pham said. “Right now I’m not good at English or grammar, and it affects how I learn in class. I feel like, in 3 years, I haven’t learned anything. I think my English is better than before, but Bowie doesn’t teach anything new. In Vietnam I jumped classes, and in 6th grade I jumped to 7th and 8th grade. At Bowie I skipped too, but it meant I didn’t learn anything new, which was hard when I went into 8th grade. Everything is easy when you’re in the beginning, but I didn’t start in the beginning. Then again, it may not be the school or teacher’s fault. It may be my fault, because of laziness or because my English is really bad.”

Dealing with homesickness is a normal part of the moving process, but moving to a different country could intensify the feeling and make someone regret moving in the first place. Pham had this to say about going back to Vietnam.

“Sometimes I want to go back to Vietnam because it’s easier,” Pham said. “I have a lot of friends over there and Vietnamese is my first language, but right now I think the US is good because I can learn a second language and I have plans which I want to learn about that first.”

Students look up to teachers as people of authority, who both lead and help them, but there are some students like Pham who believe teachers aren’t able to properly guide them achieving their educational goals. When asked his opinions, Pham had this to say.

“Some teachers help while some don’t,” Pham said. “When we began the first year, they told us to write about ourselves so they could get to know us, and some teachers were very focused about that. They know what I’m scared and worried about, but some teachers don’t care about us, though it may be unintentional because they have a lot of students to watch over and teach.”