Reflecting on Service – Dung Nguyen ’16


Come the end of May, I will not be spending the summer in anticipation of another September. Instead, I will begin a new chapter of my life that I have been preparing for throughout my academic career. And so, in this time of transition, I have a seemingly endless list of questions.

Some are small: Should I get a new bag for work? What sort of utensils should I bring to a new apartment?

Some dauntingly large: Where am I going to take my career? How will I get there?

Also, Where will I take my passion for social justice and community work?

Though my CBL course and my time as a CBL Intern, my passion for social justice has grown and developed. I will miss the times when I come into the Donelan office to share the stories from volunteering at places like the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC). Anticipating the end of my time at Holy Cross, I relish the remaining opportunities to sit among a group of my friends and have important conversations on social justice. Will I lose this commitment if I can no longer work with my peers or the people at my site?

One day at RIAC, I represented a client at the Department of Transitional Assistance in downtown Worcester. The DTA is a game of perseverance and this was not my first go-around. I knew I would be spending the entirety of my time, 3 or so hours, at this office. So my clients, a young man, his wife, and their child, and I anchored ourselves in.

The silver lining to this situation was I had plenty of time to acquaint myself with this family. I love this part the most. Learning about the unique lives of other people has always been what I enjoyed about volunteering with the community. Talking with them, they shared the same joy that reminded me of my own family. In that crowded, stuffy office, I learned about their lives before they became refugees and what they hoped to achieve now that they were here. It was amazing to hear what they had to share.

The next day, I arrived to my CBL class and shared my story with the class. It was great to hear reactions from my classmates and eventually, the discussion led to something more in-depth. We explored the events that led this family here: the conflict that pushed them to the United States and the, ultimately, inefficient system we had in place to assist them. Now, these kind of conversations are something that I have internally and often.

For me, the path to learning about social justice originated in a desire to help other people. Through many experiences, it allowed me an understanding of myself and our society. It has caused me to consider places and people beyond my first impressions, past what I can get by a simple description. As I move forward, it may be entirely possible that service will fall by the wayside, drowned by all the big and little tasks ahead of me. But, the lessons of CBL will always stay with me, enriching my life, and, I hope, allow me to enrich the lives of others.

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