Linh Gets to Know America, One Bite at a Time

By Sarah Tolman, F-1 High School Academic Program Coordinator

Linh Nguyen isn’t afraid to try new things. She wasn’t afraid to leave her home and move to a foreign country at age 17. When she arrived in the U.S. this fall, she wasn’t afraid to dive into brand-new activities, sports and food that she had never tried before.

Linh in front of her new American high school

Linh in front of her new American high school

Linh is a junior at Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton, Wisconsin on Greenheart’s F-1 High School Academic Program. Back home in Vietnam, English was always her best subject in school, she loved reading American newspapers and watching American movies, so it wasn’t a hard decision for her to come study in America.

When asked about what she has enjoyed most about America so far in her first four months here, Linh didn’t think twice. “It’s the food,” she said, without blinking an eye. Her favorite is pizza, but her host mom is a great cook and has prepared numerous delicious meals for her. When Linh got a little homesick, her host mom knew just what to do. “She’s like my true Mom; she took me to a Vietnamese restaurant because she knew I really miss my country’s food!”

All dressed up for the Homecoming Dance. Linh is in the middle with the white dress!

All dressed up for the Homecoming Dance. Linh is in the middle with the white dress.

Linh also got the opportunity to experience the food-filled American tradition of Thanksgiving. She went to her host Grandma’s house and was amazed by the spread. Turkey and pumpkin pie were her favorites, she said; she had never tasted either one before.

But food isn’t the only new thing that Linh has been couragously willing to try. At the start of the school year, she joined cross-country and ran longer distances than she ever had in Vietnam. She ran at practice during the week and with her host-mom on weekends. When cross-country was over, she went to the winter cheer try-outs.

“I just went there because I was interested in that, I had no experience doing cheerleader or something, so I didn’t make the team, but it was a really good time. It’s really hard! This is the first time I did cheer; I didn’t think they would put me on top. They grab my ankle, I was like… okay, let me down!”

Linh plans to sign up for track and field in the spring and has also gotten involved in volunteering activities at her school. Volunteering is another activity that she had never had the chance to try before coming to the U.S.The fact that American students get so involved in these sorts of extra-curriculars was one of the main reasons Linh wanted to come here in the first place.

Linh (second in from the left) with Laura Rose (far left), the CEO of Greenheart International at the CSIET Annual Conference.

Linh (second in from the left) with Laura Rose, the CEO of Greenheart International (far left), at the CSIET Annual Conference.

Linh’s adventurous and open-minded attitude has led her to make an impression on many new people, and she caught CCI Greenheart’s eye, too. This October, she was invited to speak on a student panel in Milwaukee at a conference about high school exchange. She was nervous because she had never spoken in front of that many people before. She answered questions about her time in the U.S. so far, about her high school life and her host family, and in the end she thought it was a very rewarding experience.

As for future goals, Linh first wants to focus on her grades and her exams this semester. But soon after that, she’ll start to tackle studying for the SAT. She hopes to complete her junior and senior year at Fox Valley Lutheran and attend college in the U.S. She’s got big dreams for the future, but she’s been loving her high school and her host family so much, she doesn’t want to think about leaving quite yet.

“My host brother, he’s so cute, he’s just six years old, I remember there was a day when I got home from school, he came to me and gave me a hug. I didn’t know what to say, I just feel like I am a member of my host family.”

Maybe you’ve imagined yourself studying in America, too. Maybe you’ve dreamed about tasting American food, celebrating American holidays and becoming a part of an American family. If so, be courageous, open your mind and apply!