Austin N.'s Story

"QuestBridge allowed me to see that the adversities I faced were sources of strength and emblems of pride."

I am the child of refugees. “Home” is both a point of departure and a journey. Born in the momentum after the Vietnam War, I grew up straddling two languages, two cultures, and two worlds. One nested in memories of Long Xuyên and Phan Rang, small towns in southern Vietnam that my parents once called home. The other in the Las Vegas Valley, a teeming neon grid where my parents sought opportunity and I found home. My upbringing was defined by bouts of frustration and moments of doubt. Yet, it was marked by victories small and large, namely: I am the first in my family to attend college. Not only am I privileged to be the first to make that great leap, I am humbled that an organization as incredible as QuestBridge reached out to me to begin with and an institution as incredible as Williams College provided the firm foundation on which I landed.

My parents taught me that success is predicated not only on hard work, but also gratitude: “Remember and thank those who sacrificed for you.” They left Vietnam as Boat People, without the opportunity to finish high school, let alone consider college. I worked hard in school, shouldering my parents’ and my own dreams. When junior year of high school came, I knew nothing about the college admissions process. Neither of my parents could offer guidance. To my parents, college was a pipe dream; for me, it was hazy but actualizable. The QuestBridge pamphlet in my mailbox was a total game changer. Thanks to the College Prep Scholars Program, I learned about colleges across the country and the power of financial aid. I found solidarity in students who came from backgrounds like mine. QuestBridge allowed me to see that the adversities I faced were sources of strength and emblems of pride.

QuestBridge ultimately opened the door to Williams. Williams challenged me to grow intellectually and personally. I learned to decouple asking for help from shame and harness my voice. I pursued my passions, learned from compassionate professors, and forged lifelong friendships. I found a home at Williams. From interning at QuestBridge and other venues, I also found a home in the nationwide network of QuestBridge Scholars (I still stay in touch with those I met at the Stanford National College Admissions Conference in 2010). They share with me the great privilege and challenge of reconciling our incredible education with where we came from. I hold immense pride in being a Williams College graduate and a QuestBridge Scholar in equal measure.

“Home” is nostalgia for a place you never grew up; a physical, lived place; a social network of nodes that make the world feel smaller, closer, and kinder; a place you take with you wherever you go. As a first-generation college graduate and a young professional navigating the tech space, I would not be where I am without QuestBridge. My gratitude goes to QuestBridge for giving me a semblance of home.

Austin is a Senior Analyst on the Traffic Acquisition Team at TripAdvisor. He enjoys hiking, traveling, and yerba mate. He is currently based in Cambridge, MA.