“Where are you from?”
… is not only the most asked, but also the most amazing question I receive all the time, because it is not only asking about “the root”, but also “the route”.
Every other international students can also find themselves in such situations, where classmates, friends, teachers, professors ask them where they originally come from, expecting the answer of “the root”. However, the question does not only open up topic about Home, but also leads to the story of why I am where I am today, why Germany, why this course of study, even how my future plan looks like. It is, for short, a story of “the route”.
So, where am I from? – The story about “the root”
I have always been a city kid, born and raised in Hanoi – home of 9 million people. In case the number of 9 millions is a little bit abstract to imagine, my home city has just as many people as the whole country of Austria does. Considering the fact that Passau – where I am living and studying right now – lies beside the border of Germany and Austria, the story about “the root” becomes more interesting than it could be in anywhere else. Furthermore, Passau, with about 50 thousands people and about 15 thousands from them are students, is just a small province compared to where I have always been living in for 20 years of my life.
However, “the root” is not just about geo- and demographic, it is also about life style, mindset, custom and tradition, food and drink and many more. I love seeing the excitement in my friends’ faces when I let them try my favorite cinnamon tea from Vietnam. I love showing them the pictures of myself wearing traditional Áo Dài and telling them the meaning of its different colors, or pictures of my family in Tết – Vietnamese traditional New Year Festival, and love smiling along with them when I explain why Tết, instead of popular English translation for New Year Festival in Asia countries – “Chinese New Year” or “Lunar New Year”. It is Tết, because as a noun, it’s a traditional festival; as a verb, it’s the action of braiding and coming real close together; and as a whole, it means that in Tết, every family member comes home, unites and spends time together sharing traditional food and doing traditional activities. All these activities we do, we do not only because of tradition, but also because they strengthen “the root” inside of us, where I come from.
Seeing the smiles that brighten up my friends’ faces, I have the feeling that I somehow have rooted a piece of Vietnam inside their hearts.
Why am I here today and where am I heading to? – The story about “the route”
As the stories go on, Home was where I root, but Passau is where I sprout. Finding myself in a small city, together with other 15000 young people from all over the world, talking days and nights about European Integration, Globalization, Politics, Economics, History and many more, it is not just me, but we all are in the most beautiful time of our life. Isn’t it just so magical, how we root elsewhere in the world, but gather together in a city of Passau, ready to sprout, excited to grow, strongly and firmly? Like a wave ready to explore the oceans, we are here preparing ourselves to explore the world, and to bloom, some day.
Where to head to, to be honest, I don’t know. However, it is also the reason why I have made it so far to Germany, from a city that 8000 km apart and 6 hours of time difference. I am still trying to find out my life destination. Anyhow, it is totally okay if the destination, in the end, is also the route, since only trees have roots but men have legs and therefore, we are not supposed to stay still. I may be considered a day-dreamer to some, but I have overcome the fear of uncertainty just by admitting the fact that there are much more knowledge out there to be watered with, much more room out there to grow, to bloom, to canopy.
And much more fascinating, to root along the route, to share cultural pieces of Home, to root the beauty of tradition in people’s heart and to see their smiles bloom.