The following is an essay from Kris Dinh. She is a current student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was one of two recipients of UVSA Gulf Coast’s scholarship to attend the UNAVSA-13 Leadership Conference in Boston, MA.
In April of 2016, I was presented with a scholarship to go to UNAVSA-13. I had never once thought in the years prior that I would be getting the opportunity to go to such a large, national conference with such passionate, Vietnamese leaders, however, I can honestly say that this scholarship to UNAVSA has served to be one of the most life changing scholarships I have ever received. Not only have I gained more connections around the U.S., but I’ve gained new insights and skills to help me improve as a leader.
Before going into UNAVSA, I thought I had learned a good bulk of what I needed to know to effectively lead my VSA from attending Camp Delta and from my two years on eboard. Because of that mindset, I hadn’t exactly gone into UNAVSA with the most open-mind and open heart. I had entered with one idea of myself and of the conference and came out with something completely different.
During the four days during the conference I got to bond with people all around the region. I got to hear and see all that they had accomplished for their VSA’s as well as how differently they ran things. My mind was opened by the different types of leaders there were as well as the different ways they handled different problems and different ideas. However, there was a mutual passion and enthusiasm between everyone that I got to talk to. Many people I had met had been involved in their VSA’s for over four or five years, yet their determination to improve and learn more never seemed to waver. It ignited in me an inexplicable desire to become one of these people.
Throughout the course of UNAVSA, I got to listen to several charismatic key note speakers, attended several workshops, and attended eboard elections and CPP selections. During key notes, I received the opportunity to come face to face with success. These people were people who had taken what they had learned about leadership and directly applied them. They taught me that it was okay to not be perfect and that it was okay to fail, as long as I got up again. I learned how important making connections and putting myself out there were, no matter how strange or uncomfortable I may feel myself to be. I learned to grab all opportunities that I may come across because even though they may not seem to be important now, they could possibly give me new paths to travel and new experiences that could help me later.
During the workshops I took, I met many different types of leaders, ranging from presidents to public speakers to alumni. These people taught me how to interact and work with others, how to handle problems in ways that I never would’ve thought, as well as how to make goals for myself, no matter how difficult or unreachable they may have appeared to me. During eboard elections, I gained new role models. I was humbled by how much others had done, how far their influences had reached, and how much perseverance they had. I learned that nothing is every accomplished without hard work and that hard work and consistency are the backbone of getting anything done. During CPP elections, I felt the impact of what being part of such a large collaboration had to our philanthropy. I gained new insight on the importance of being a part of VSA as well as for working together with others for a larger, greater good.
It’s still early in the year so it may be a bit pre-mature for me to say, but I think the combination of these feelings of awe, admiration, humbleness, and passion in combination with the advice I was given will help drive me as I proceed through my journey to improve my VSA and my region. I hope that I will be able to inspire others to become better leaders as I become a better leader. I firmly believe now that the sky is the limit and I can do whatever I want to do as long as I’m willing to improve, listen, and persevere through all the challenges that are presented to me. I don’t think I’ll ever be fully content with staying where I am after seeing those more ambitious than I. I’ve still got a long way to go and I’m extremely excited to take upon this challenge. UNAVSA has been a fantastic experience for me as a person and as a leader and I hope that by the time I read back on this, I’ll be able to see the obvious changes this chance has given to me.