My wife Lisa and I came to the U.S. from different countries— I from Vietnam, she from Sweden—seeking the American dream. Concordia University Irvine played a part in that as we recently completed our undergraduate degrees and launched into graduate studies.
Lisa arrived in the U.S. from her native Helsingborg, Sweden, at age 21, seeking education and opportunities. Her parents, who had left Hungary to escape communist encroachment, worked hard and provided well for their children, but college was not part of their lives. Lisa’s goal was to become the first person in her family to earn a bachelor's degree.
On the other side of the globe, my family fled Vietnam also in the face of communist expansion. The year was 1975, and as a seven-year-old I vividly remember leaving Saigon in a scary rush, climbing aboard a large, rumbling military helicopter at the American embassy. We journeyed through the Philippines and Guam before settling in Huntington Beach. Never again would we gather in the bathroom of our house seeking safety when earth-shaking bombs and explosions filled the air outside.
America treated Lisa and me well from the start. I got a paper route as a boy and was up before the sun every day, riding my bike and tossing newspapers onto driveways. Lisa attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and received a full scholarship for a third year, earning her associate's degree.
When Lisa and I met and married, we knew we wanted to be lifelong learners. The first step was to finish our bachelor’s degrees. We both believe in self-development as well as professional development. We also wanted to be role models for our kids. How could we tell them how important education was if we hadn’t pursued further education ourselves? It was time for us to walk the talk.
Our first opportunity came when our three kids were all through their infant years. We read about Concordia’s Online Bachelor's Degrees in a local magazine and concluded that it offered the right path for us. We attended one at a time so not to overwhelm our family. Lisa finished her degree and then I finished mine. Concordia fit perfectly into our schedules as we juggled school, jobs and family. It wasn’t always easy. There were nights with less sleep than we needed, but we couldn’t be more proud of having accomplished it.
The effect on Lisa’s career was immediate. She had worked for ten years as an information technology (IT) manager at a large insurance company in Newport Beach. Soon after earning her Liberal Arts degree from CUI she was able to change her career focus, moving from IT to communications within the same company. She credits her Concordia degree for making that desired change possible. She is now head of internal communications, handling all internal communications with the company’s 3,000 employees.
How could we tell them how important education was if we hadn’t pursued further education ourselves?
Today, I am finalizing my capstone project in CUI’s MBA program, and Lisa is earning her MBA as well. We feel fortunate for everything the U.S. has offered us. What makes it perhaps more special is that Lisa and I know what the other went through to earn our degrees. Sharing that experience gives us perspective, understanding and an even deeper connection with each other. It also made us confident to pursue graduate degrees.
We will always be proud of achieving our Concordia University degrees and the important part it played in our American dream.