A little bit on how my summer has been so far

  1. On the incidence with J. T.

As much as I need to acknowledge that throughout the past two years, I have been able to form my arguments with more logic, more factual-based and analysis-based arguments, the basis of my arguments are still very much based with emotions (pathos) and I am still no one to be able to use ethos. And that is the thing — I still need to tone down my emotions, and use more logic and rationale before I burst out any emotionally charged statement. And two other things that I noticed myself doing pretty badly — committing stupid mistakes after 2AM (constant emails to Duy being the very obvious example), and overreacting over trivial things. Including J. T.

And that, for me, was my only fault. And yes, I made a mistake, and I should be fine with that — I would not actively try to tone down my emotions after this incidence. And the journey of me actively trying to do that is a pretty cool one.

The incidence with J. T. also makes me question, a bit, about trying to not buy, and to change, the culture that we perceive as wrong. The rationale behind me doing the thing I did, was that someone needs to tell this person about how the person have been acting wrongly, about how the person (and the people who are pro that person) are buying the culture of disrespect. But then, I guess the two questions that I could ask myself are:

  • Was what I did a really effective approach on solving the problem? Because you do not and cannot change a person, and you don't even try to offend them with you trying to change them, because then you would set yourself superior to other people. And problems are never solved based on the difference in position. And that is wrong — while your rationale can be right, the methodology was wrong. And clearly, since the methodology is wrong, you can instead try other approaches to the problem — from the bigger side of it, for example. A part of me is still, until this point to be completely honest, protesting however: while you should not waste your energy doing insignificant stuff, you have the rights and even moral obligation to speak up against incidences like these.
  • A little bit more on the superiority: You cannot fight the ethos approach and the age — occupation — “life experience" — social connection intimidation (in a nutshell, difference in social position) by trying to establish your moral grounds higher than that of your opponents. Therefore, maybe the next time you ever encounter this instance again, better shut up and establish for yourself a nice social position before you can champion for anything.
  • And I would try to tell myself this the next four years I am at Brown, and beyond: Establish your knowledge, experience and position, so that you do not have to even mention that you come from an Ivy League, that you have worked in this place or that. Ivy League is just a name Nam, it does not tell you anything.

2. On graduating from United World College

Just like how I am going to reflect on how the actions that the people around me have been shaping who I am today, only a while after those actions have been executed without me thinking much about it, I really think that the impacts that United World Colleges have had on me would be only appreciated fuller and better once I get to college, and when I interact more with life. However, these are the things that are on top of my mind right now, especially for this summer. And I do not want to compare my experience or my lessons to anyone, but yes I can really proudly say that I have had a damn steep learning curve at UWC.

  • The ability to embrace everything fully, and then detach from it.

I remember being different people in different stages of my UWC experience. The first semester, I was this hyper-apologetic person, hyper-caring and hyper-affectionate person. It was good, but it might have been a little bit too much. The second semester, I was this overachiever, in terms of extracurricular activities and academics. The third semester, I was this hyper-sensitive person, breaking down after the whole Duy experience. I was also a hyper-nerd, preparing my way for college application. And the fourth semester, I was this hyper-happy person, enjoying my life to the fullest and, yes, senioritis would be the perfect word for it.

The nice thing about embracing everything fully, and then detach from it, is that you have the ability to see the good sides and the bad sides of everything. I enjoyed being the person everyone loved on campus and the “nicest" person on campus, but I also saw that my actions could be perceived as quite fake, that the root of my hyper-caring and overly apologetic characteristic is my caring too much about what other people think. I enjoyed the lessons that I learned from working my ass off on my History research paper (without it, I probably would have not been where I am today academically. I enjoyed the lessons I learned from being part of 10 different things literally. However, I also saw the dark side of it, my mental and physical health being destroyed afterwards. And then, I would detach myself from the things that I fully submerge myself in. And choose an extent that I want to continue that.

  • The ability to let my hair down.

Sounds trivial, but the fact that I could have lived who I am (most of the time) at UWC actually means a lot to my confidence and in my social interactions. The ability to finally come out to everyone about my sexuality helps me feel more comfortable under my own skin, develop more authentic connections with my friends, and to actually involve myself more in the field of Gender — Sexuality Studies and Feminism.

I need some extra thoughts, however, on how my human connection with other people become less forced, though. Perhaps it was the by-product of the extra confidence that I gained, being able to be myself and to be appreciated, recognized on campus.

  • The development of my involvement with Public Service, and the analysis of how to most effectively serve other people.

Before coming to UWC, I was used to seeing things as given. The two community involvement projects that I was involved with, being Project Sugar and VietAbroader, only approached me as a do-er, as someone who would fulfill the bigger mission that it achieved, and not someone who actually have all the liberty to reflect, to raise the concern, and to stand up against the ineffective methods and the wrong cultures that the two projects were perpetuating. Perhaps I always remained as a volunteer. My world view was only limited to executing one project to another, to do well what was given, and to argue on the trivial stuff (well I did and do still appreciate my volunteering experience in Vietnam for this, though).

UWC was a whole new thing, however. I remember still bringing this unthinking passion for Public Service to school, wanting to establish a club called UWC Travel+ Club. Hahaha it is still so damn funny to think about it. I did not think much about what problem the club was solving, why would the club be sustainable and needed, and all those things — I just wanted to create something. And, I guess I have to tribute most of my thinking experience at UWC to GSI (Global Social Impact) or YEP (Young Entrepreneurship Program) now. The systemic approach of Di, of teaching us well the problem definition stage, the asking-question stage, and of trying to deal with my when I asked too many questions or come up with too many problems, in the society and in me thinking about too many problems. I remember I would text her on a random bus in San Francisco after a homeless night, would keep her up until 12 just to talk about whatever I had on my mind. And I would really be grateful for that, Di.

I really think that she was the reason why I got into Brown. When I suck at everything.

Going back to the point. And so right now, I feel like my experience with Public Service consists of a Passion, a Critical Thinking mindset, an a-bit detail-oriented personality and a passion for the Welfare of other people. Now I just need extra experience, more Leadership experience, and more reflection. And I hope that Brown would be a nice place for that.

  • The nature of thinking from different perspectives

I would dedicate this part to everyone that I have come across at UWC, but perhaps more especially to my roommates. My roommates have significantly marked my change at UWC.

First year, I was a person who cared too much about what other people thought about me, while I shared a room with Tom, from Belgium, who did care about other people around him, but managed quite well on how to care for other people, unlike me.

“Now look into yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself this like you mean it.”
“You're a queen, and you are never going to let anyone let you down.”

“Tom, what are the things that you think I could do better?”
“Why the fuck would you ask that? Stop caring about what other people think!”

Tom was my dearest exposure to a culture where I didn't have to care too much about what other people think and how they would react. With occasions like this, I eventually gave in to his Belgium post-colonialism mind invasion: I changed my UWC account password into “Imafucking98queen", and start to think different about the world out there, about different cultures and their perspectives on things, and not entirely the Vietnamese and the Asian culture that I was raised in.

Similarly, by the beginning of my second year, I became a much more argumentative and logical person, while my roommate, Emil from Denmark, was a rather emotional person. We would discuss on a lot of things, argue on a lot of things, and at the beginning of the year, my non-stop argumentative self would not concede to his emotional side. I used to be this person who cared a lot for how other people think, who would be the first to concede, and then I became this person who would hurt other people. And so, I tried to trace myself back to the caring self, and tried to find a balance. And so, my world was not only the culture that I was raised in anymore, but other cultures as well. It was also about revisiting my culture, and appreciate it 10 times more.

I am blessed for the experiences, the arguments, the life that I lived with my roommates.


  • The respect to other people, and especially my Teachers.

My love for education, my respect to other people

  • The care for myself
  • The love for the things out of my comfort zone, going to the gym, hiking, playing soccer being some of the examples.
  • And the great memories I have had here, where I really really found the friends that I really can connect to.

3. Education For Critical Consciousness — How lucky we are to be able to fail and to try.

4. Education For Critical Consciousness — On the culture of non-existent dialogues and of banking education, and its flipside

5. My Beloved World (Sonia Sotomayor) — On the people that have had an impact on my life

6. My Beloved World (Sonia Sotomayor) — On my view about Public Service, and how I will navigate my Brown experience.

7. On my class so far

8. On other stuff

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