Tri Tran

Hi. My name is Tri Tran, and here is my senior speech
When I was a young boy in Vietnam, I would spend hours watching HBO and Star movies, letting my imagination draw the America it saw in my head. However, what I didn’t know was that I was looking at America through a tiny keyhole called Hollywood. My references to high school in America came from Glee, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and 21st Jump Street. I really believed in what I saw since I remembered thinking about all the dramas of my imagined school, and I even thought of plans to deal with those dramas.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t use any of my plans since RHP was different, and life in America was different from what I imagined. Here are a few things that I have found out about America
I found it funny that the first ideal of America was about Starbucks. I remembered having my first Starbucks coffee, getting excited because I had always seen it on social media and movies, but never got the chance to taste it. I had a latte because it was the only thing that I recognized from a movie. I took my first sip, and my first reaction was like . . . “I am sorry, but it’s not that good.” I took the second sip, and it became horrible. I was angry with all the media that overhyped this brand. I didn’t make it through half a cup. It was my first cultural shock, which led the way for a couple more cultural shocks, which mostly deal with food.
Little did I know, a couple months later, I was able to drink anything on the menu without any hesitation. Note to my younger self, Starbucks was good, but it takes a while to get used to.
The second ideal came from RHP. I remembered walking into Mr. Flamini’s US History class, and my first reaction was: “Is he really teaching history? Am I in a wrong class? Oh my god, please don’t tell me this is an art class, I sucked at drawing.” As weird as it sounded, I had reasons to support my reaction. For instance, in my country, history teachers don’t have memes covered their entire room and face-swap their president with another man. Moreover, the first thing that he told us to do was to make sure that we log on to our Outlook apps and download Reuters, so we could catch up with the news. In my mind I was like: “Wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to teach us about the past, you know the past, the thing that is opposite with technology and happened before present events?” I am sorry Mr. Flamini, but there was a little doubt. He proved me wrong since he was the most passionate history teacher I had ever known, and his lessons grew out of his classroom.
“Perspective,” was one of the first things he taught me. Despite his effort to stress the importance of this word, its meaning was as vague as America itself. To me, at that time, it was merely a new vocabulary word that I needed to learn. As I unraveled America, I realized that perspective shows itself in every aspect of life here. It was on the news. It scared me when I first watched news correspondents argue so fearfully about a political matter. It scared me even more when I listened to my classmates argue about the same thing in my US History class. I started to apply perspective in my life. I tried to look at my life’s problems through a more positive lens. Oh, I screwed up a test, but look on the bright side, there will always be a test correction. It controlled the way I talked and received information. What if I said this? How will it impact this person? Why did they say it? What made them say it? Although some may say that I misspoke a lot, and it did impact someone, I acknowledge it. I either didn’t know what I was talking about or perspective was not in my vocabulary book at a time. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stress enough how much this word, “Perspective,” has impacted my life, and I truly believed that perspective would be the pill to some of the world’s worst problems. By looking at the world through a different lens, a different perspective, you are experiencing and understanding a part of the life that you have never seen before. Understanding created sympathy and compassion, and never has there been enough sympathy and compassion in the world.
I used to live in a country where 99% of the population belongs in the same ethnicity, and I landed in America, the melting pot of the world, and more specifically, RHP, the melting pot of Los Angeles. I was the first Vietnamese to attend RHP. I thought that I could deal with it. I was wrong. I was ill-prepared to become a minority since I was the majority for most of my life. For the first few months, my English was not sufficient for me to express myself, and no one spoke the same language as me. 7,800 miles really made a big difference since I shared no common ground for conversations or side chats. All my thoughts, feelings, and ideals were trapped within myself. Even when my English was better, I couldn’t feel comfortable socializing with others. I was not taught how to deal with all the differences because there was no such thing called diversity in my old school.
My inexperience created a stupid mindset: they are different, so they won’t understand. For a while, I felt out of place. Thankfully, with the help of the school, I found my first friend who was patient enough to listen to my broken English during Outdoor Ed. The After School Program became a place where I could share my trapped ideals and thoughts with Mr. Flamini and Mr. Holloway. Gradually, I started to see fewer differences and more similarities between myself and others. I realized that if I look deep enough, beyond all the differences, we are all quite alike. I erased the line that separated my own world and the world around me.  Just like that, I opened up my trapped world, and it has resulted in some of the most positive changes in my life.

Watch Full Video Here


Rolling Hills Preparatory School

One Rolling Hills Prep Way
1500 Palos Verdes Drive North
San Pedro, CA 90732

T: (310) 791-1101 | F: (323) 310-9973 
Rolling Hills Prep School prides itself on being a forward-looking, academically rigorous college-prep school with a soul. Every day we provide our diverse student body a high-powered traditional curriculum combined with stimulating and innovative teaching techniques both inside and outside the classroom because we believe that success in college and life is best attained by equipping our students with disciplined minds, sound character, healthy bodies and creative spirits. RHP is a private, coeducational day school for grades 6-12, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, CA.

Renaissance, our sister school, believes that bright students who learn differently can rise to great heights when they become empowered and confident. Visit the Renaissance website.