When Jacklyne Pham’s parent’s moved to America from Vietnam in 1981, they were pregnant with Jacklyne and hoping to give their daughter a great life in America while still hanging on to their beloved Vietnamese culture. After the war, they first ended up in Honk Kong and then moved on Massachusetts, where Jacklyne’s uncle lived.
With Massachusetts came opportunity, family, and, begrudgingly, lots of snow. So, Jacklyne and her parents moved once again to Southern California, where another piece of their family resided.
Today, Jacklyne still lives in Southern California, now with her husband and five-year-old son, and continues to keep the Vietnamese culture alive.
Part of the ideals that her parents instilled in Jacklyne were hard work and education. In 2007, Jacklyne enrolled at a state college in California, intending to go the biology or pre-pharmacy route, hoping to one day work in a medical setting.
“I lived 30 minutes away so I commuted through California traffic each day to school, sometimes the drive taking up to an hour and a half. It seems so silly to say but you spend a couple hundred dollars for a parking pass that doesn’t even guarantee you a parking spot after that long drive. After a semester, I got fed up and decided that traditional school wasn’t for me.”
The parking and commuting woes weren’t Jacklyne’s only complaint about traditional, brick-and-mortar schooling.
“I realized trying to learn in a lecture hall just wasn’t for me. I enjoy learning and I always want to gain knowledge in new areas but I realized I can’t gain that from a monotone professor at the front of a classroom with a PowerPoint. I was getting Bs and Cs at that school and I knew I could do so much better.”
That’s when Jacklyne found Columbia Southern University and her “life changed completely.” She decided that LifePace Learning was a good option for her and she was able to take courses she enjoyed and in which she excelled. She graduated in 2011 with her Bachelors of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health and then again in 2016 with her Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in health care administration.
“I believe in CSU and I believe in the shift of education to many online curriculums. So many students will eventually be able to find their way back to school because it is becoming a more flexible presence in their daily lives.”
Jacklyne has become known as the Referral Queen; she tells people about CSU everywhere she goes and has personally referred eight of her friends who have become CSU Knights, a few of whom have or are close to graduating.
“I promised all of them I would attend their graduation ceremonies [in Orange Beach, Alabama]. It was such a rewarding trip for me to go receive my diploma and I wouldn’t miss the milestone for my friends.”
She also quickly found CSU’s social media channels for students and alumni to interact with one another, including the Facebook student closed group.
“I felt like I was talking to and connecting with students all around the country. I’ve even connected with students from the Vietnam campus and I hope to visit it one day.”
Jacklyne says she travels to Vietnam at least once a year and is very connected to her family and the culture there.
She was recently there for her grandmother’s funeral and says she visits as often as she can. She strives to stay sharp in the language and while she can’t write in Vietnamese very well, says she can get by when she is there. She says raising her son, Logan, in California, makes her grateful for the Vietnamese influence there and strives to immerse her son whenever she can.
“My brother and I are very different. We grew up together learning the same things but for some reason, I clung to the Vietnamese culture and traditions while he chose to become very Americanized. I like sharing this part of our culture with my son and visiting Vietnam as often as we can.”
Jacklyne says she talks to her son in Vietnamese and believes being bilingual will be beneficial to him as he grows up. She keeps the traditions alive, especially in things like memorials, ancestory, and special dates and holidays.
“Lunar New Years has always stuck out to me and been one of my favorite parts of our culture. There are certain things you do and say before you carry on into the New Year.”
Jacklyne says she and her family get together for a truly traditional and festive Lunar New Year. They celebrate with a feast, give thanks to their ancestors for the blessings of the previous year and light incense candles and stay up late to greet the New Year. They ask their ancestors to protect them and give a successful, prosperous year ahead.
“We have many sayings and blessings we pass along to one another. If an uncle is single, for example, we wish for him to find a girlfriend in the New Year, and things like that.”
Another favorite Lunar New Year tradition is the red envelope. This cultural practice has been alive for generations and symbolizes luck and wealth. An older family member gives a sealed red envelope, filled with lucky money, to the younger family members. They exchange greetings of good advice and wisdom.
This Lunar New Year, Jacklyne celebrated with her husband and son in traditional Vietnamese clothing and rituals, but also included a trip to Disneyland.
“My son didn’t like wearing the traditional outfit [Ao Dai] at first, but when he saw Mickey Mouse wearing the same thing, he was suddenly okay with it!”
Passing to her son the same traditions and culture that her parents passed to her is very important to Jacklyne. She plans to enroll her son in the only English/Vietnamese dual immersion school in California when he starts kindergarten next year.
Jacklyne says that most things she does are fueled by her desire to give her son the best life possible. She began studying for her master’s degree when she was pregnant with him and when she was eight months pregnant, tragedy struck their family. Her brother-in-law was diagnosed with acute lymphoid leukemia and after a one-year battle, he died just a month before Jacklyne would give birth to his nephew.
“His cancer was rapid and we went through a process of trying to find a hospital that would accommodate him. There were no clinical medications to suppress the cancer and we were hopeful about a bone marrow transplant but the cancer came back within a month, that time it quickly spread to his brain. While visiting him in the hospital and seeing how everything worked to keep the operations of the hospital running smoothly, I decided I was interested in pursuing a degree in hospital management.”
Jacklyne realized she didn’t do well with blood and that a degree in Occupational Safety and Health would be a good route for her.
“I figured if I could be working in some area of the medical field, setting standards, making changing, ensuring the environment was safe for the nurses, doctors, patients, and visitors, I would be doing something really good.”
As life so often happens though, things didn’t work out exactly as she planned. Jacklyne had her son and she and her husband started a business together, an IT company that hosts third party emails, survey lists, networking backups, and data recovery. This allows her to stay home with son, travel, but still have a hand in the medical field.
“A lot of clients are medical offices so I still feel like I get to play a small part in that.”
Since she graduated, she has been taking time to destress and travel the world. She has been to Vietnam twice, Belize, and is set to visit Japan, Korea, Florence, and Rome.
“All of this travel was a little unexpected but I’m grateful for it. Belize was a girls’ trip with a friend and Florence and Rome are a graduation gift from my husband.”
When she settles back into life at home in Southern California, she plans to start working toward her doctorate degree. Eventually, she thinks she would like to teach.
Jacklyne has experienced a lot and does not plan on stopping anytime soon. Throughout every experience, hardship, trip, and tradition, she hopes to stay true to her roots and bring honor to her family heritage.
“Every person is incredibly unique. My culture is such a big part of who I am and I am grateful to pass that along to my son. CSU helped me gain confidence, skills and friendships that I could have never had anywhere else. I want to be able to pay that forward. I am a very proud Knight.”