Peter is a Vietnamese American originally from San Jose, California. He graduated from Seattle University in spring 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and is currently in residency in Seattle.
Where are you from?
Banh Xeo—Vietnamese crepe! It comes with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, grilled and green onions. The word “Xeo” refers to the sizzling sound the crepe makes when you fry everything together in the pan, and then it’s served with fish sauce. I love cooking this with my roommates; it’s got a lot of flavor, it’s crunchy, and very fun to make. Whenever I go home, it’s usually one of the first meals I eat that my family makes and brings me back to childhood.
Home is where my dad and sister are. Home is where I go to feel safe. Home is where I have laughed, I have cried, I have smiled, where I have been upset. Home is drinking soy milk and eating Banh mi from Saigon Deli. Home is when I’m cooking with my loved ones. Home is where my friends are, but where I can be with myself too.
Why did you choose your major/field?
Working with patients sparks joy. Being with people in their most vulnerable moments and sitting with them when it can be uncomfortable or scary is a privilege. I’m driven to learn about why people are in the hospital or how their condition affects them, and hopefully to educate them about their treatment plan.
Cultural show called Xuan, which is Vietnamese for spring. That exemplified being Vietnamese American for me because the show centered around our family’s stories of diaspora from Vietnam. And I think what made it so relatable was because almost everyone has an immigration story, or some story about movement from place to place. For my parents and grandparents’ generation, the story about diaspora and being refugees resonated with them because it was their experience. For my generation, the story of our family’s diaspora is important because it affected our lives here and how we view the world.
Why did you go to college?
Being Roman Catholic, my parents were very intentional about my name. They named me Peter because in the Bible, Jesus tells Peter that he is a rock, and on this rock Jesus would build the church. Peter however also denied Jesus three times. When I think of my name, I think of a rock because my parents wanted me to be a point of stability for people when things get difficult. I also think of the story of Peter denying Jesus and How that’s a reminder that I’m not perfect either.
Being Southeast Asian American looks different for everyone, and to embrace that identity takes time and everyone’s path to that is different! Find people who love you for being you and for your identity, I find that helps a lot with confidence in one’s self. If u feel inclined to join clubs to help you better discover your identity, but also know that clubs aren’t the only way! You can attend museum events, cultural events, read, write, watch a documentary, make poetry, so many ways to stay in touch with your identity and come to a better understanding of it. And growth isn’t always linear, sometimes it’s not clear cut if we’re growing. But that’s ok because we all grow differently.
Peter: “Where are you from?” is the first question I put in the space. And then the two things underneath were about “What is home?” and then the comfort food.
I talked about banh xeo, which is like a Vietnamese crepe. It’s really good. It comes with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, onions, and then you can get it in a pan that makes a sizzling sound—that’s what the word “xeo” means—sizzling, essentially. So, I think that’s really important because when people think about Vietnamese food they think about pho and they think about egg rolls and rice and that’s great, but I think banh xeo is a little bit more . . . it’s popular for sure, but maybe not as known. So, I talked about that, because I do think that, you know, there’s a lot of flavor and I had some great memories making them with my roommates. And whenever I went home for Christmas, it was always the first meal that I had. So, it just reminded me of warm flavors, really yummy. And just, like, a big part of my childhood.
And I talked about how home is where my dad and sister are. It’s where my friends are. It’s where I can be myself. It’s where I’ve cried, where I’ve laughed, where I’ve been mad. Things like that. It’s where I’ve been able to cook and be with myself.
And then for the “Why did you choose your major?”—underneath that I have the answers to what “sparks joy” or passion in me and then the one about my cultural show.
The drive is pretty much, I do love working with patients a lot. I think especially now with COVID the visitor policy is such that you can’t bring people into the hospital. So, I think that as a nurse, my role is to be there with patients when they’re at their most vulnerable. I think that’s a privilege in the profession. Even though it’s a lot of work, you’re with patients when they need you the most and when they have some of the happiest news to share with you. So, I think for me, that’s why it drives me, knowing that these people are people at the end of the day, and knowing that they’re anxious about being in the hospital, they’re anxious about the course of treatment, so you’re trying to help them feel more comfortable. And I really do take pride in that a lot.
And then “Why did you go to college?” I put that towards the end.
I talked about my name. My parents are Roman Catholics, so they chose “Peter” because in the Bible, Peter’s supposed to be the foundation that God, that Jesus builds his Church on. So, I think I’ve always taken that to heart as my family wanting me to be, like, a point of stability. And I’ve had a lot of friends tell me straight up, like, “Even when things are turbulent, you’re always standing there, like, ‘Come forth.’ You’re just there.” There are things that stress me out for sure, and I’ve definitely shown I’ve been stressed but for the most part I try to be level-headed and stay cool and I think that’s why people respect me, and they think that I am that kind of “rock.” But also with Peter, I think about how he denied Jesus three times and that’s a reminder that, no matter how stable I’m supposed to be, I’ll have moments where, maybe, I’m not the best person or the best friend. So, [thinking about] how do I work with that.
And I gave the advice about being Southeast Asian and just, you know, sometimes you might feel pressured to join clubs, but I don’t think that clubs are the only way for you to identify. I think of writing poetry, going to museums, or reading about people. I think there are so many ways to learn about your culture beyond just a cultural club so I just said to find people who embrace you, don’t change yourself for anyone. Truthfully. Because if you do, it’s not really your happiness at that point, it’s theirs. So, for me, it’s all about finding people who embrace you for who you are. That’s what builds confidence in yourself. And then explore. There are spaces that make you uncomfortable or things that make you uncomfortable. If that happens think, like, “Why is it making me uncomfortable?” and if you feel safe then proceed. Like, “Oh, there’s something about my culture I didn’t know about,” but how are you going to come to terms with that, how are you going to grapple?
Veronica Anne: How did it feel to think about these questions and write about them?
Peter: I felt good! As a nurse—it’s kind of weird to say “as a nurse” versus “nursing student”—you know, you’re working full time, you’re not always thinking about these things at work. So, I do appreciate having moments where I do get to think about them.