An OCA Intern's Story
Tired of workplace discrimination, my mother turned to doing nails. My dad took the risk of leaving behind the safety of a corporate job,
and my parents opened a nail salon. By the age of ten, I was really good at closing daily sales, translating for my mom, and painting
nails. This became my parents’ opportunity to drill in my head, “You don’t want to end up like this do you? You need to be a doctor. You
can help people, be your own boss, and have a stable job.”


As it turns out, I hated biology. To procrastinate STEM courses, I found solace in sociology classes. Only after I had failed two
biochemistry courses did I wake up to the reality that I was not cut out to be premed. Instead, I loved the study of people and society.
Yet, I could never tell my parents I wanted to quit. The concept of disappointing them, and abandoning the only concrete path I knew,
gave me so much anxiety that eventually developed into panic attacks.


Meanwhile, I was a campus organizer and fashion blogger – one of those high functioning burnouts who ran away from her problems
by doing things other than studying for biochem. One day, the OCA-Greater Houston Chapter invited me to give a talk about Asian
American body image. I had never heard of the organization before, but was psyched for my first speaking opportunity. The event went
well, and I became curious as to what OCA really did. I started going to their B3 professional development events and was inspired by
all of the AAPI speakers who were not doctors, discussing their respective careers, unconventional or just non-STEM. As I began to
volunteer with OCA, I found a mentor who recognized my abilities and nurtured them. Under her mentorship, she helped me prove to
myself that I could make a career out of the community building that I loved to do so much. Through the OCA-Houston internship, I
flourished coordinating civic engagement programs and producing digital media for all the causes I was passionate about.


After my internship was over, I was ignited. For the first time in three years, the fleeting emotions of fulfillment I felt in sociology class
filled me up and were here to stay. I joined the OCA-Houston chapter as a student board member and aspired to continue to effect
change in my local community. Eventually, I understood the crucial role OCA plays in advancing our community socio-politically and
economically. More importantly, I came to see my own potential in being a part of this effort.


I started at Rice University thinking that the only way to pay it forward was through medicine. By the time I graduated, and with the
knowledge, training, and support of my OCA family, I realized that I could give back to the world in other ways that I’m much better at. My
parents fled a war-torn country looking for freedom and opportunity, only to find it hindered here by discrimination against their skin
color and accents.


Today, I have the privilege of working to fight against this through my daily work. Not only have I been able to contribute to OCA’s
mission by working here, but I’ve been granted opportunities made possible only by being affiliated with OCA. Using the skills and
knowledge I have honed through OCA, I have had the honor to host events for museums in New York and DC that have garnered
hundreds of attendees each, and produced Houston’s first AAPI cultural and literary magazine.


These successes are proof to my parents, and most importantly myself, that I can indeed make a career out of something I love and
care about. If OCA had not taken me in during the peak of my college burnout, I might not even be standing here today. By providing me
the opportunity to grow and explore through the local internship, OCA opened my eyes to what it really means to be part of a community
and opened my mind to greater ventures. That life-changing experience is what fuels the tenacity that I bring to work at OCA. I hope you
are able to join me in paying it forward and enable OCA to continue to provide internships and programs that make a lasting impact for
a lifetime.



Senior Development Manager, and former 2016
OCA-Greater Houston Local Intern, Thu Nguyen shares
how the OCA Internship Program impacted her well-being.
By Thu Nguyen

I started at Rice University thinking that the only way to pay it forward was
through medicine. By the time I graduated, and with the knowledge,
training, and support of my OCA family, I realized that I could give back to
the world in other ways that I’m much better at. My parents fled a war-torn
country looking for freedom and opportunity, only to find it hindered here
by discrimination against their skin color and accents.

Today, I have the privilege of working to fight against this through my daily
work. Not only have I been able to contribute to OCA’s mission by
working here, but I’ve been granted opportunities made possible only by
being affiliated with OCA.

I am a lovechild of engineering. No, really, my parents fell in love through
long distance phone calls and faxes about homework. They were
Vietnamese immigrants in the ‘80s working full time blue-collar jobs to
put themselves through college. I was born the year before my mother
graduated with honors in electrical engineering from UT El Paso. Their
American dream felt within their grasp… until my mother could not find a
job and my father kept getting passed over for promotions at work even
though he was leading all the projects.