"I am excited for my senior year. I have so many exciting things planned, such as being a teaching assistant, applying for a Fulbright Fellowship, leading clubs, hosting campus events, and enjoying my LAST fall semester of undergrad, which is absurd to think about!"

July 9, 2020

Summer is actually zooming by (no pun intended). I feel like I just returned to the United States last week! I am happy to see that Massachusetts is recovering from the pandemic very well. According to a Bloomberg Analysis, both Boston and Worcester are ranked 3rd and 8th to recover the fastest from lockdowns. It is refreshing to see that Massachusetts is bouncing back quite well as the Northeast was the epicenter in cases in March/April. Continue to wear masks, wash your hands, and practice precautionary measures! 

In the past few weeks, there have been quite a few new developments in my life. The first development is that UMass Amherst will be starting classes two weeks early. The first day of class is scheduled to be on August 24th. While this may not seem like an early start date, UMASS usually starts classes the day after Labor Day. The final decision is that the majority of classes will be remote, but students will choose to live on campus if they are deemed eligible. There are still missing unanswered components, but I have to weigh on the decision if I want to go back to campus or not. As a resident assistant, I don't have to pay to live on campus, but does the risk of living on campus and getting that experience outweigh the risks? I'm not so sure yet. 

Despite the choices I have to make, I am excited for my senior year. I have so many exciting things planned, such as being a teaching assistant, applying for a Fulbright Fellowship, leading clubs, hosting campus events, and enjoying my LAST fall semester of undergrad, which is absurd to think about!

Another new development is that I have a summer internship! Yup, you read that right! You all followed me through my canceled internship, my internship search, and now a new internship. I started at Moderna Inc. as a corporate communications intern, and it has been absolutely great! Starting an internship remotely is definitely an adjustment, but nonetheless, I am happy to have this opportunity.

I am so excited to retake part of Project Onramp as I had such a positive experience last summer. This summer will give me a new type of experience with having virtual summer sessions. We get to network with industry professionals, network with other interns, learn about the changing industry landscape, and develop our careers. I have been applying endlessly for summer opportunities, and while I have some promising prospects, they all fell through. Tram-Anh from Bottom Line has always been helping me find opportunities, and a spot at Moderna opened up, so she reached out to me. I had to hop on this opportunity. Bottom Line has always been championing behind me, and I am so thankful for that! 

Another new development is that I am starting a virtual book club with a friend! We were both heavy readers in high school and haven't been able to bounce back in college. I've never been part of a virtual book club or even a book club outside of my high school years. I started developing my love for reading again as many times I couldn't focus enough to sit down and read. We both have a passion for American literature because American literature is not monolithic as the American identity is so diverse. Since the United States is so diverse, it is so important to read about diverse stories as it will create a greater sense of understanding about the nation we live in. One of my favorite books is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, truly a work of art!

Lastly, I have finally been able to make it past the first 20 pages of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2016 for Fiction. I bought this book in 2016, but I just couldn't get into it. I tried multiple times with no success, until this summer. I felt as if I didn't have enough historical context to fully be engaged with the book. A couple of years later, a couple more hours of research, a few more written essays, I have made it to a quarter of the book! The book is about a North Vietnamese spy in the South Vietnamese army, who is then transplanted as a refugee in California. The book examines the complexities of war, dual identity, American culture, the refugee experience, and the perspective of the Vietnam war that is not through an American lens. 

Viet Thanh Nguyen has slowly started to become one of my favorite authors. He is constantly engaging with his readers online, and he really makes me examine the Vietnamese diaspora in a critical lens. The network of Vietnamese/Vietnamese-American writers is enormous, as there are endless amounts of literature that I can and will dive into this summer. 

As cliché as it may sound, this summer will be a transformative one, and I hope it can be for everyone!

"I am standing in solidarity with the Black community as we must dismantle the racist systems and institutions in place. As a non-Black person of color, I stand with the Black community in combating injustice. I urge my fellow Asian-Americans to discuss race and the current national situation with their families. These conversations are complicated, and the language barrier is hard to overcome, but they are essential for Black liberation."

Our voices are loud and powerful. Sign petitions, open up your wallets, protest, unlearn anti-Black rhetoric, and be a powerful source of change. 

Black Lives Matter, today, tomorrow and forever. 

June 16, 2020

In college, four years go by much faster than high school. The decision to go to UMass came down to money. I liked the school enough, but I was not in love with it. I came from a small high school where I knew most of the people since elementary school, so the transition to a 28,000 student institution was difficult for me. It took a lot longer to adjust, to feel like a student at UMass. 

Growing up, I had this distorted vision of college. I put college on this pedestal where all my problems would be solved. Very quickly, I learned I was naive. When April of 2017 came, I had to decide between whether I was willing to carve out nearly $80K in loans to go to Bates College or about $25K to go to UMass. UMass was looking more and more desirable. I was not willing to carve out that much debt for an undergraduate degree, and I gladly didn’t. While there have been many ups and downs, I am grateful for the education I have. 

One of my career goals is to become an urban planner. I’ve had this goal since high school. It stemmed from my AP Human Geography class and my continued studies in geography. I have always had an interest in maps and the relationship between place and space. With more and more internal migration within the next few decades, more urban planning will be necessary to account for many people in urban areas, for adequate infrastructure, resources, and sustainability. 

My family and I have gotten closer the past few months. College had put a strain on our relationship. I was not able to see them and have explorative conversations about identity. This time in quarantine has led me to apply for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship scholarship in Vietnam. I never thought of teaching, especially abroad. I was always surrounded by wonderful teachers, teachers that were supportive and challenged traditional thinking. Teachers, mentors, and counselors have shaped my self philosophy. 

As of late, I started to understand the importance of the word context. My history teacher in Spain explained that in anything we view, we have to understand the context that surrounds the situation. This orientation has allowed me to start understanding the trauma of many Vietnamese immigrants that is often masked in the community, as well as the effects of intergenerational trauma. This exploration has led me down a rabbit hole, but it has opened my eyes to how I mask my own trauma. It has opened my eyes to allow me to heal and better myself.

"My father came to the United States as a refugee after the Vietnam war, and while I know the stories, reading the book made me understand the sacrifices that my parents have made for me. It really humbled me. It reminded me that I AM a first-generation college student and that I am doing just fine."

May 21, 2020

The past few weeks have been getting a little more difficult as I am wrapping up my study abroad classes AND starting my summer class at UMass. I have NOT enjoyed this overlap!

I have been having a lot of mixed emotions because, as I am nearing the end of my junior year at UMass, I am starting to think about what senior year and post-graduation will look like. 

I am thinking about when to take the GRE, what graduate schools to apply to, whether I want to pursue an MBA or MUP, if I want to take a gap year or not, if I want to go abroad for a year, or if I want to make a move across the country. While these were always in the back of my head, many of these decisions are quickly approaching. My friends and I were always chatting about our future, but now is the time that choices are important. While it does stress me out a bit, it's also exciting. I am ready for something to look forward to. This pandemic has allowed me to reevaluate what IS important to me and what my values are. 

When I do get the chance to think about non-academic topics, I have been thinking about my heritage a lot. One of my close friends is doing book exchanges over the summer, and she gave me The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. The book is about a family of refugees after the Vietnam war and their journey to the United States. It's a graphic novel that explores themes of identity, generational trauma, PTSD, war, depression, and what it means to be Vietnamese-American. This book ripped my heart out and made me cry rivers as I identified with so much of it. 

My father came to the United States as a refugee after the Vietnam war, and while I know the stories, reading the book made me understand the sacrifices that my parents have made for me. It really humbled me. It reminded me that I AM a first-generation college student and that I am doing just fine. 

I find that I suffer from imposter syndrome and that many times I don't feel like I'm making big enough strides. My Bottom Line advisor Laura tries her best to undo this. She always puts my achievements into perspective and helps me see how proud I should be. I have a bad tendency of not feeling enough. I always feel the need to do more and achieve more without ever taking the time to be proud of myself. 

As corny as it seems, the book did change my life. It has led me to be more introspective about my identity, about a land that seems so foreign to me. I have been reteaching myself Vietnamese. Being away at UMASS for the majority of the year and then going to Spain, where I spoke Spanish and English most of the time, led me to lose a lot of my language skills. This quarantine has helped me redevelop them, but I am FINALLY taking steps to learn how to read and write in Vietnamese. This is something that my mom is rejoicing because I rejected learning Vietnamese as a child, but here I am! 

This little identity crisis has led me to think about the various identities I do have and how they all intersect with one another. From being openly gay, Vietnamese-American, first-gen, all of it. I am learning the importance of language, the importance of communication, and the importance of breaking generational cycles. I understand more about who I am and what I will become. I guess this quarantine is not so bad, after all. 

"I have been learning more about myself and how adaptive and resilient I can be."

May 8, 2020

Uncertain has been a huge buzz word within the last month. I have written the word uncertain in numerous emails dating back to February. I’ve texted uncertain or uncertainty to my friends and family, read it on blogs, heard it on the news, and received emails about summer internships with it too. While I am usually a control freak over my own life, I am embracing this uncertain new normal.

This past week I had my internship with Agios Pharmaceuticals canceled. While I am disappointed, I prepared myself for this news. My peers across all different fields were getting internships and job offers rescinded left and right. I would be naive if I said I wasn’t expecting this. I knew that this is a fickle time in the job market, and the effects of COVID-19 will change life as we know it. I reached out to Agios a few weeks prior because I was being as proactive as possible. I was planning to move closer to Boston for the internship, and I wanted to secure summer housing if needed. 

When I received a call at 9 a.m. on a Thursday I wasn’t too devastated, I was more worried about what my next steps were. Before I went back to sleep, I had to reach out to Tram-Anh, the Career Connections Manager at Bottom Line, to talk about different available opportunities. She forwarded my resume to two companies, a part of Project Onramp. I am so thankful for Bottom Line for being so helpful and very quick in responding to all of my emails the past few weeks. I, of course, had to email Laura as well, my Success Advisor, she wears many hats and sometimes just listens to me ramble. Bottom Line has always been a big help in my professional and personal growth. It continues to be such a great resource to have in my corner. 

I have been learning more about myself and how adaptive and resilient I can be. I am always up for change. I believe change is the only constant, and that change is inevitable. Like I said in my last post, I am finding my new normal. My new normal means that everything is uncertain, and things are going to continually change. I have to continue to be adaptive and problem-solve my way out of difficult situations. Many times I can get stuck in my own head and live in a foggy headspace where I am doing more harm than good for myself. I become too anxious and worried, and that hinders me from moving forward.

There have been a few wins this week! I have been working out a lot more. My newfound love is jump roping. The amount of cardio I get from this is amazing, as I am a person that lacks in the cardiovascular department. I like working out outside because I spend countless hours indoors, why not get some sunlight while I break a sweat? This is honestly one of the highlights of my day because I’ve always wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, and I am allowing myself this time to get into the swing of things. I’ve been more cautious of what I’ve been eating. When I returned from Madrid I lost a significant amount of weight unintentionally, and now I want to maintain it. Especially in times like this, I want to be the healthiest I can be! 

"I need to start finding my new 'normal' and being comfortable in it."

April 20, 2020

It has been a full month since I have been back from Madrid and I think I am finally adjusting to a quarantine lifestyle. I started following a loose routine. I’ve also heavily reduced my social media usage because excessive use of social media can be very exhausting and unproductive. Logging off of Twitter has been a great improvement to my mental health as there has been a lot of misinformation coming off of that app. Along with that, I’ve been learning to really enjoy my own company.

At the beginning of quarantine, I felt this pressure to be productive, to gain a new skill, write a book, get super fit, continue being a workaholic, and be this working machine. But now, I’m viewing it as a time to really stop and enjoy myself. While yes, I do have so much to do in terms of school work, career planning, and managing the changes of COVID-19, I’ve been learning how to let myself breathe. I’m more forgiving of myself and allowing myself to adjust properly.

I’ve been slowing down and it reminds me of a book I hated in high school, In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honore. I hated the book because I had a distaste for taking things slowly, but the book taught about enjoying the process of our everyday lives. Enjoy the act of doing instead of the results. Now more than ever does slowing down clarify what is important in our lives.

A highlight of my week was making my own tortilla de patatas and to my surprise, it was a success. Tortilla de patatas is a Spanish omelet dish made of three ingredients: potatoes, eggs, and onions. Making this dish requires a fair amount of patience, something that I lack. I was not a big fan of the tortilla at first but after my neighbors in Madrid invited me over to make it with them one night and I fell in love. Not only did it remind me about the amazing time I had abroad, but it also inspired me to start cooking more. It’s a therapeutic as I would have Ms. Lauryn Hill playing in the background as I attempt to not burn my food.

Online classes honestly have been difficult because I am easily distracted. One minute I am watching a lecture, another I am going through my emails, then another I am on Linkedin, and then another I’m tending to my plants. I’ve been trying to dedicate a specific time during the day to strictly do work and I’m getting better at it. I have been waking up a lot later than I would like, so that plays into a lot of my unmotivated feelings. I do make it a point to go outside and workout to get some sun and boost my energy levels. I find it so important to get moving a little bit because I can become very sluggish if I don’t have any blood flowing.

I’ve been thinking lately about what is going to be the new normal. Will life pre-COVID-19 be the same as life post-COVID-19? There has been chatter about the Fall semester being online and the more I’m researching, the more likely it seems. I am obviously hoping for the best but I started questioning how I will adjust to this if this is going to be long-term. I miss seeing my friends, going to conferences, leading student clubs, working with professors, and simply being on campus. I need to start finding my new “normal” and being comfortable in it.

"It is important to check in on the people you love and care about, but also, don’t forget to check in on yourself."

April 10, 2020

Hi! I am Le Tran, and I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts! I am a part of Bottom Line’s Success program in Massachusetts. I’m a junior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in marketing and urban geography (graduating May 2021).

Before quarantine and social distancing I was eating calamari sandwiches, jamón, paella, and tortilla de patatas in Madrid as I was studying at the Universidad de Carlos III Madrid (UC3M) for a semester abroad.

The shift from living in Madrid to living back in Worcester has been difficult. I’ve had to travel back to the U.S., reintegrate into American culture, self-quarantine, get tested, manage summer internship interviews, and take online classes.

The pandemic escalated earlier in Spain than in the U.S. Despite it being a slow progression at first, in a matter of days the situation escalated exponentially. In the blink of an eye, I was on a plane back to the United States.

I am still able to receive credit for my classes as long as I continue them online. The switch to online courses has been difficult because UC3M never had online courses. Their transition was slower and not as seamless. Online classes are difficult because I get distracted easily and there are so many moving parts in life right now. It is challenging to be fully motivated and concentrate. Luckily, I am only taking four classes instead of my usual five or six, so the work has been manageable. Finding a routine or schedule has been difficult. Days blend together. I’m trying my best to build self-discipline because that is what really will get me through the semester.

When I was abroad, I had to continually manage to apply and interview for summer internships. I was dealing with a six-hour time difference, which doesn’t seem like a big difference. Still, when you need to interview during work hours, it can get a little strenuous. Especially when you have three back-to-back interviews at 10 p.m.! I am working with Project Onramp again this summer as a corporate communications intern at Agios Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge. As the COVID-19 situation continues and more and more of my peers’ internships are canceled, I can’t help but worry about my summer as well. Everything is day-by-day.

During this time, I am happy that I have a great support system – whether that is my family, friends, or Bottom Line. The first few days back in the U.S. were difficult just because I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was glad to be back with my family and worried about the uncertainty of the situation. But I was also sad that I had to return home so soon. Various Bottom Line Advisors have checked up on me since then, and it is so appreciated.

It is important to check in on the people you love and care about, but also, don’t forget to check in on yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re feeling unproductive or unmotivated. This is a global pandemic, after all! Being hard on yourself only damages your mental health more. With all this uncertainty, your mental health is essential.

One of the things that have kept me sane is logging off of my social media for a while. Social media during quarantine has largely affected my productivity, work ethic, mental health, and attitude. Logging off has dramatically improved my attention span and motivation as a whole. I’ve also been more dedicated to my hobbies such as learning language and dancing. I have been keeping up with learning more Spanish and dancing to my favorite reggaeton artists.

So, everyone, please stay safe and practice social distancing! See y’all next week!