What Makes Me... Me

Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you'd like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you've had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke.


My mother was born and raised in Vietnam. My father is a fifth-generation Californian whose family journeyed across Death Valley in the 19th century. My aunts are Taiwanese and Singaporean, and my cousin is Italian.

I was well on my way through elementary school before I realized that not everyone eats phở regularly, and not everyone has family members strewn around the world. As I grew up, I began to notice the cultural divides all around me -- including the ones within my own family. I observed how my father’s Caucasian family and my mother’s Vietnamese family never truly intermingled with one another. For example, I had two Christmases every year, one with my dad’s side and one with my mother’s. One in which I spoke English, the other in Vietnamese. With such a unique combination of cultures in my family, I found myself suspended between worlds, not wholly a part of one or another.

Over time, I grew to appreciate the mixed heritage that both added to my character and set me apart from my friends. Living in the Bay Area, with its diverse population, I was intrigued by cultural differences and sought to understand other families and their traditions. In school, I found myself fascinated in French class, going home and...

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