KPIX 5 Students Rising Above

by Sherry Hu and Christina Arce

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Life is full of tough questions. But for Students Rising Above alum Songnhi Tran, the question of where to go to college wasn’t one of them. Nor is the question of what she will do later in life with her education.

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“I always felt like there was a connection,” she said. “I always saw [University of California, Berkeley] and I was, like ‘Is this fate trying to tell me something?’ But then when I’m on campus, I’m looking at the environment, the character, what Berkeley embodies … I just love the campus. I feel like I belong here.”

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She laughed as she said, “It’s cheesy and cliche, but when I walked on campus I felt like I belonged.”

Belonging is one thing, but adjusting to the college life and tough courses at UC Berkeley will be a new challenge. It’s why Songnhi enrolled in Summer Bridge – to get a jump on her classes and live on campus.

“Entering a public institution, I feel like I’m always fighting, fighting, fighting to catch up,” the incoming freshmen said. “I’m constantly playing the catch-up game here”.

“Setting a really solid foundation is what Bridge tries to do,” said Summer Bridge Director Cara Stanley. “It’s quite a threshold that most students have to overcome to really continue to do as well at the university as they did in their K-12 learning environments. The transition becomes critical to make sure that they get a great foundation so that they do graduate.”

“I just feel like I have to find my niche,” said Songnhi.

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Transition is nothing new for Songnhi, who learned how to adapt early in life. “My parents are both political refugees from Vietnam. So, coming here they came with nothing,” she said. “We started from the bottom.”

The financial instability her family faced meant a lot of different homes in different places. “Throughout my life, I lived in different communities from Richmond to Vallejo,” said Songnhi. “I moved around a lot. I moved to Oregon for three months, then came back to California.”

Her parents were often not home due to long work hours. “I had to become self-reliant, independent, said Songnhi. “With that, I just immersed into education because that was my outlet.”

She believes a college degree will lead to a better paying job and a way to repay her parents.

“Basically, my parents’ retirement is relying on me or my siblings. We don’t have savings accounts, we live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “Based on their sacrifices, I’m okay with being their retirement plan because they’re my parents.”

Her aspiration is to become a doctor. Not only to help her family, but all families.

Songnhi Tran looks to the future with hope saying, “I don’t like to pity myself. Rather, I like to turn the disadvantage into an advantage.”

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