Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good-bye, Duc ... come back soon

It’s hard to believe, but a school year has come and gone, and Duc, our exchange student from Vietnam, is preparing to take the 25-hour plane ride back home to his life in Hanoi.  His bags are packed, not only with his clothes, but also with vitamins, OTC medications, and baby clothes for his family back home. 

He leaves the day after Memorial Day, and as he walks out our door for the final time, the house, which for the past year has had a running Vietnamese soundtrack thanks to Duc constantly watching videos on YouTube while doing homework at the dining room table, or talking with family and friends back home, will be quiet once again.

Duc cut grass for the first time last fall; he got "all itchy."
With no kids of our own, Ella and I are far removed from the high school experience, and really could offer only rudimentary advice to Duc on his first day of class.  Be careful.  Make friends. Call us if you need us. Learn something.   His only misstep on that first day was getting off the bus at the wrong school.  Thankfully, a staff member gave him a ride when he explained his situation.  

Now, a full school year later, with friends made, classes aced, and honorary diploma earned, Duc is both excited and depressed about going home.  He’s excited about getting his life back, but depressed due to rising tensions in the region, and the fear that he could be drafted into the Army before he can attend college in the fall.

Ella and I have mixed emotions about him leaving.  On one hand, our life can get back to normal; Ella can walk around in her PJs all day if she so chooses.  On the other hand, though, Duc has become such a part of our lives that it will be impossible to not miss him.   I’ve read about empty nest syndrome; now, I guess, we get to experience it.

He’s leaving behind boxes of art supplies and other personal effects that we will ship to him once he settles in at Pratt Institute in New York sometime in August, if all goes as planned. He was awarded a five-year $100,000 scholarship to the school, which sounds impressive, and is impressive, yet his parents still will be chipping in close to $40,000 per year for his tuition, fees, housing, etc.  It’s disheartening to realize that had Duc been our real son, we wouldn’t have been able to afford that.

Duc's art was featured at the local visitor's center
I think Duc is the only person who has ever complained
that the go-karts were too fast
Unless worldly events intervene, Duc has a bright future ahead of him, either in his chosen field of architecture, or through his art.  Duc is an optimist, and supremely confident that he will be successful.  I’m a pessimist, which I guess comes from age and experience, and I’ve told him not to be a starving artist, and to fall back on his English as a second language skill, if needed.  Duc speaks fluent English; translators can make between $50 and $100 an hour in New York. 

Duc has promised to visit during his Christmas breaks.  I guess the trip between New York and Georgia is shorter and less expensive than from New York to Vietnam.  However, life happens, and while he knows that he will always have a home with us, it’s possible that Duc’s trajectory will take him elsewhere, elsewhere to fame, fortune, riches, and family, and away from the little rinky-dink town of Byron.

I have been trying to think of some “fatherly” advice to give him before he leaves, but the only words that come to mind are the words that we told him when he first got here:

Be careful.  Make friends.  Call us if you need us. Learn something.


  1. What a nice post Scott. It got me all teary eyed. Such a talented young man. How wonderful that he got a scholarship to such a prestigious art school. Hopefully he won't get drafted and he'll be able to continue on the path to his bright future. I'm so happy that the whole exchange student experience turned out well for everyone. Good luck Duc!

    1. Thank you. Even our dog, Jacy, will miss him. She spends most evenings curled up at his feet while he is doing homework.

  2. I've enjoyed all of your posts about Duc especially this one. Goodbye Duc.

  3. Thoughts and well wishes to all of you.

  4. I enjoyed reading about your er Duc's adventures these months. I'm hoping things turn out for him as they are planned, too. You'll probably never know how much this time with him helped shape his future but I am sure it was all to the good.

  5. This is a lovely post, Scott. Hopefully, you'll all be able to keep in touch, and Duc will get to realize his college dream this Fall. Our neighbors had a foreign exchange student from Vietnam two years ago. They felt terrible when he left because he didn't want to leave at all. He begged them to let him stay. They wanted to help him but didn't feel like they were really in the position to do so. They have kept in touch with him via facebook, though, and although he wasn't looking forward to going back, his life seems to be going pretty well there for now. It's also his dream to come back here for college. Hopefully he'll get to realize his dream, too.

    1. Duc was ready to go home. However, according to his Facebook posts, everything looks weird, small, and cramped now. I guess he got used to the wide open spaces in Georgia.