Thuhang Tran is no stranger to overcoming adversity. She uses her trials to encourage others to push forward.
Brooke Lazar (BL): What was it like transitioning to America?
Thuhang Tran (TT):
The transition was an exciting time of hope and happiness. I reunited with my dad after having been apart for so long. My life completely changed.
I grew up in South East Asia, so the culture in America was different. But I have adapted to the United States' western lifestyle. At first, it was hard to adjust to switching back and forth between two cultures while at home and work.
I had to learn English to integrate into society and join the workforce. I had to learn basic functions like using the appliances around the house, learning the rules and practices of driving, paying bills, interacting with people, and more.
BL: You contracted polio as a child. Do you experience any side effects of the disease today?
I have some pain in my muscles and joints and less mobility during the colder temperatures.
BL: How do you help children in Vietnam?
I have organized fundraisers for many years to help low-income and foster children in Vietnam. We provide the opportunity for them to attend school and afford their school supplies and tuition. Helping children become literate and furthering their education are the stepping stones to a better future.
BL: How did you come to study IT?
IT fascinated me when I came to the United States. When I left Vietnam, technology didn't exist in the early '90s, or I was unaware of it.
My dad was an engineer who worked for a computer company and mostly specialized in computer hardware. One day, I saw him build a fully functional computer desktop from scratch. He took me to the shop to buy computer parts. This experience triggered my curiosity and creativity, so I decided to study technology.
At first, I wanted to study computer graphic design, but the school didn't have the curriculum for that major. Therefore, I studied computer science, and now I can write a program to make software work.
BL: What made you decide to write your book,
Standing Up After Saigon: The Triumphant Story of Hope, Determination, and Reinvention?
On many occasions, I shared my story with friends and colleagues.
When these people heard it, they often said it was fascinating and that I should write a book about my life and how I reunited with my dad. I didn't think seriously about this project until I met Sharon Orlopp. With her enthusiasm for my book and the encouragement from my friends and co-workers, I decided to move forward with this project.
BL: Was the book difficult to write as it caused you to relive painful memories?
It was not easy to share the stories. Some chapters included highly emotional memories, some that were painful and challenging life events. Even though these experiences were in the past, the emotions were still raw.
BL: What do you hope readers gain from your story?
I hope that by sharing my life experiences, I will give my nieces and nephews the ability to understand more about what their parents and grandparents have been through. I hope they will better appreciate what they have.
I also want readers to gain a new perspective when reading about my struggles. I want to encourage people not to judge others. When you see a differently abled person, don't be afraid to offer help. Treat them with love, patience, understanding, and grace. I hope my story will provide comfort and inspiration.
Born in Saigon, Thuhang Tran developed polio as a toddler. When Saigon fell in 1975, her father narrowly escaped to the United States and left his family behind. Later, the family was told that he had been killed in a helicopter crash. It took almost 15 years for Thuhang's family to be reunited.
When Thuhang immigrated to America, she had surgery and intense physical therapy that enabled her to stand upright after crawling and squatting on the floor for 17 years.
Thuhang went on to start her new life by learning English, graduating from college, and working at several Fortune 500 companies in IT. She works as the senior project manager at the State of Texas. Some of her former roles include senior process manager at Walmart, information technology specialist at IBM, and software engineer at Sprint.
Several years ago, she focused her energy on helping orphaned and disabled children in Vietnam. Her future goals include creating a non-profit organization to help disabled children in Vietnam.
Brooke Lazar is WITI's content manager and digital editor. She has a BA in professional and technical writing from Youngstown State University.