Thuy Vo Dang
For one Garden Grove high school student, the January 9, 2014 visit to the UC Irvine Libraries was a discovery of a very personal nature. For others, the field trip provided an opportunity to learn something new about Vietnamese American history, UC Irvine campus, or library resources. Their feedback after the visit ranged from new discoveries such as “There used to be statues of Confucian men in front of the Asian Garden Mall [in Little Saigon]” to learning more deeply about “how the events that happened in Vietnam still affect people today.”
After a warm welcome in the library lobby, the group of 25 students and 3 teachers were ushered into computer classroom. One student observed that, “You guys have really fast computers.” This is certainly the impression we hope to make for students who may aspire to come to our university.
The second leg of the tour took place with the accompaniment of Mr. Bao Nguyen, Garden Grove School Board trustee and UCI alumni, in the Southeast Asian Archive. He followed the students the rest of the day and engaged them at every opportunity. In the SEA reading room, the student mentioned above discovered the English translation of her grandmother’s book, Stormy Escape. She pointed this fact out to her friends who seemed duly impressed.
The third leg of the tour was in the Special Collections and Archives reading room facilitated by Public Services Librarian Steve MacLeod. Here, students were introduced to primary sources and given a “show and tell” experience with the records, photographs, and artwork belonging to the SEAA collection. By chance, the same student discovered her grandmother’s handwritten manuscript had been laid out.
The last part of the field trip occurred at the Cross-Cultural Center where a group of UCI students facilitated discussion pods organized by the Southeast Asian Student Association with lunch provided by Our 1 World’s Cathy Lam. At this point Garden Grove City Council member Chris Phan arrived and joined in providing his own perspectives on following one’s heart or pleasing one’s parents when selecting a college major. He mentioned to me how he hopes one day his children will attend this university.
While the students took away some valuable information, I also learned a great deal from facilitating this visit, mainly that the connections we are able to forge for these students may spark their imaginations in ways we cannot immediately measure but well worth our commitments of resources and time.