By Shelby Stewart
Starting high school can be intimidating—new friends, teachers and a new building. But that challenge is even more amplified when you start high school in a new country.
Such is the life of Brandon High School freshman Van Le.
Le, a 14-year-old foreign exchange student, is experiencing high school for the first time rather than her native country of Vietnam.
“I was in middle school before this,” said Le.
Le is a resident of Ho Chi Minh City. With a population 8.4 million people the largest city in Vietnam is located in southern regions of the county. It was formally known as Saigon until 1976, and is still known as Saigon informally. It is also on the Saigon River, making this city a large commercial and passenger port.
“I like the cold (here in Michigan) because in Vietnam it’s just hot and humid,” she said.
The high schools in Ho Chi Minh are only 10-12 grades, which means even if Le was still in Vietnam, she would only be in middle school still. When she returns, she would be in high school. Both of Le’s sisters are also in school here in America, one at Novi High School as an exchange student, while the other attends the University of Seattle.
“I had to start at 6:15 a.m. and the school ends at 4:15 p.m.,” she said. “But in Vietnam I have a break time and a nap time.”
In school here in Brandon, Le says she has to study a lot, but in Vietnam she didn’t have to study much.
“At home I have to wake up at 5:30, go to school, and I had to go to the extra class after school, I got home around 7 p.m. and did homework,” said Le. “In America, I don’t have a lot of homework. If I do, it’s easy to do. I have a lot of free time.”
Since Le is only a freshman, she doesn’t know exactly what her path will be after high school, but she does know she wants to go to college like her sister is right now. She doesn’t have plans to be a doctor like her father, or a “house wife” like her mother, however.
“I don’t know what I want to do after high school,” she said. “But I want to be an interior designer.”
Le really enjoys math, which translates to her interest of drawing and designing houses. She also sang in the Brandon choir, and admitted that her favorite genre is country music. Though she is enjoying her time in America, she does miss something about Vietnam: the food.
By Shelby Stewart