Monday, January 21st, 2019

Students of USM: Chi Bui’s travels from Vietnam

Posted on April 26, 2016 in Community
By USM Free Press

Meaghan Gonsior

By Meaghan Gonsior

Half asleep, a young Chi Bui gazed down at the coast of Maine from her airplane window as it descended into the Portland International Jetport in 2012, thinking to herself, “Oh, so Maine is an island.”

Up until two days before boarding the plane, Bui didn’t know where Maine was on the map. The high school junior from Vietnam had entered an exchange program, seeking companionship, something she said she longed for as an only child whose mother was a busy, single professional. Bui had no involvement in deciding where she would spend her senior year of high school; she could have gone anywhere. The agency set her up with a family in Windham, Maine, but after arriving in Maine, she discovered that her situation wasn’t so simple.

After two months as a senior at Windham High School, Bui was told by her placement agency that her host family’s financial situation had changed and she would no longer be able to stay with them. Bui was told that she would be relocated to India on her own dime, with only two day’s notice. Meanwhile, her host family, when questioned, showed Bui the documents stating they had only agreed to host her for two months. After a whirlwind of confusion, Bui was finally able to stay in Maine, transitioning to a host family who lived in South Paris. After graduating from Oxford Hills High School, Bui received a scholarship to USM.

Staying in Maine appealed to Bui, because she had become familiar with the area, and her former host families were the closest thing she had to relatives in the U.S. Bui faced a massive adjustment when moving to Maine, but she was no stranger to studying abroad. In middle school, Bui had spent two weeks studying in Singapore. The education system seemed more challenging to her compared to Vietnam’s. While Vietnamese high schools have a much wider array of subjects, the courses in Singapore went more in depth with their classwork and discussions.

In Vietnam, high school students attend school Monday through Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Students study sixteen compulsory subjects, spanning the gamut: knitting, military, music, art and engineering, where they even learn how to draw up blueprints and properly connect electrical wires.

Vietnamese students are expected to choose a career path in high school and they spend each morning focusing on their chosen subject area. Bui’s focus in her Vietnamese high school was science and she has continued that pursuit at USM. Bui is currently an Environmental Science major, minoring in chemistry, ecology and nature tourism. She spends many hours each week tutoring other students in the Learning Commons.

After she graduates from USM in the Spring of 2017, she hopes to get a job as a lab assistant, possibly working with water quality. If she is able to secure a job right away, she will have the opportunity to extend her visa for another three years. Despite the initial setbacks and challenges that Bui faced as she dove into a foreign culture, she has continued to remain positive about the whole experience. “It was worth it, I’m here!” She exclaimed with a laugh.


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