Fifth Anniversary at Chatham

By Linh Phung, English Language Program Director

August 22 was my fifth anniversary of working at Chatham full time. Today was my sixth Opening Convocation. How time flies! I found the speech that I gave at the Opening Convocation for the Global Focus Year of Vietnam and a picture of me wearing a “restyled” ao dai on that day. It has been five years full of challenges, opportunities, and accomplishments. Here’s to a successful academic year to all!

Vietnamese Ao Dai
Vietnamese Ao Dai

Xin Chào everyone, Distinguished president Barazzone, vice president Armesto, trustees,

Dear Chatham community,

My name is Linh Phung. I worked at Chatham as an ESL adjunct instructor for the two previous semesters and am now working full time in the English Language Program in the office of International Affairs.

First of all, I’d like to say how honored I am to be here at Chatham during the year of Vietnam and to be invited to talk to you today about my home country. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to share my perspectives about my country as an insider. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for me to look at my country when I’m away from it – to look at it from your perspectives. I appreciate living between cultures, and Global Focus is a great intercultural space to promote understanding, compassion, and reflection.

If you look at Vietnam on the map, you will see an S shape bordered by China to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the West and the vast East Sea to the East. Writers describe the country as a beautiful girl with attractive curves. Yet, it also looks like a jagged lightning bolt. The fact is that this beautiful girl has attracted a lot of international attention throughout history. A Vietnamese girl can be gentle, but she can also be strong, or even fierce when necessary. She has been caught in the storms of wars many times throughout History. Our country’s fight to maintain our own identity as Vietnamese, our language, our culture has always been intense and sometimes ferocious.

Some other authors liken the country to a bamboo pole carrying a heavy basket of rice hanging from each end. It is still a common sight in Vietnam to see a farmer carrying this pole on their shoulders to transport their harvested produce from the field to their homes or to the market. This apt comparison refers to the fact that the expansive Red River delta in the north and vast Mekong River delta in the south are the biggest rice producing areas in the country. In fact, Vietnam is among the top three rice exporting countries in the world.

While agriculture still accounts for a big proportion of the Vietnamese economy, other economic sectors are developing fast. Vietnam has been one of the fastest growing economies for the past few decades with bustling cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, full of opportunities and excitement. Vietnamese students here in the U.S. tell me that they often hear this advice: “if you want to get rich, go back to Vietnam.” There is certainly a lot of economic and social advancement and rapid progress in Vietnam.

Interestingly enough, despite its status of being a developing country Vietnam has been rated as one of the happiest countries in the world. This probably stems from the fact that we often have a positive and calm outlook about the world. We smile all the time. We are always surrounded by family and friends. It’s also a country where people think they can move up the social and economic ladder through education.

It was a pity that last year I couldn’t go back to Vietnam to celebrate, Hanoi, our capital’s 1000th anniversary. I’m so glad to be a part of this wonderful celebration of my country during this academic year at Chatham. I feel like home away from home. Thank you very much and I’m looking forward to meeting many of you!