Who are you?
My name is Vi Pham and I am a second-generation, Vietnamese American woman who lives in Little Saigon, which is the largest Vietnamese community in Orange County. Growing up in Little Saigon, I am privileged to live in a community that embraces my culture such as eating Vietnamese food, speaking the language and interacting with other Vietnamese peers. I did not appreciate this community until I lived in Oregon for a couple of years in the past, and I had a first-hand experience of being a minority in a predominately Caucasian population. It was a culture shock for me because I was unaware of the social tensions between difference races, and through my personal experiences of racial remarks and stereotypes towards Asian Americans, I was forced to reconsider my status as an Asian American in American society. Now I use my minority position to spread cultural awareness and to give my community a voice in academic research and community service.
What field are you in and what attracted you to that field?
As a master of counseling student at CSUF and I chose to attend this program in order to expand my knowledge on masculinity and to work with Asian American male clients in the future. To be honest, I did not consider the counseling program until I was getting ready to apply for master programs. Towards the end of junior year, I met a professor from the counseling program who gave me an opportunity to develop my individual research project. For my research project, I examined how young adult Vietnamese American men navigated romantic relationships based on cultural influences, Asian masculinity, and interracial vs. within racial relationship experiences. My mentor inspired me to apply for the counseling program when he introduced me to a book on how to culturally interact with Asian American men in counseling sessions. Since I was interested in the topic of masculinity, I realized I could continue my masculinity research and work with Asian American male clients in the counseling program.
How do you hope to use your master’s degree to improve the health of your community?
My ultimate career goal is to open a counseling office near Little Saigon specifically for the Vietnamese community. While there are an endless amount of Vietnamese dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, chiropractors, and pediatricians, I rarely encounter any Vietnamese therapists and/or psychologists. Despite the heavy stigma towards counseling in my culture, it is imperative to hear my community’s voice regarding mental health issues. There is a lack of awareness on South East Asian mental health issues, so I want to be one of the few individuals to reach out to Vietnamese clients regarding emotional health. One of the best ways to give back to my community is to help individuals who were involved in the Vietnam War, students who struggle to balance Vietnamese and Western identities, and other issues pertaining to Vietnamese culture.
What is a resource or advice you wish you had before starting your master’s program?
I actually have many advices, so I will try my best to summarize all of them. First, the best way to network is to build genuine relationships with people around you. If you make an honest effort to build relationships with classmates, teachers, and other community members on campus, they are more willing to invest in your success through whatever resources they have to offer. The second advice is to take the hardest classes towards the last semester because if you get accepted in your desired master program, C’s get degrees (assuming that you still try)! Another advice is to find loopholes in the academic system and max out your resources on campus. For example, it is possible to take up to 21 units on campus, you can get independent research credit in your department even if you are a research assistant from another department, and some grants are willing to pay for your international conference travels (don’t waste your time with ASI). In addition, if you are a paid research assistant on campus, always try to negotiate for higher wages if you have a special skill that makes you a unique candidate! Overall, these advices help me succeed to where I am today, and I hope that you find these useful, too.