The Five Lessons I Learned from Immigrating to America

May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and part of DHG’s focus on inclusion and diversity is highlighting the lives of our people. Vy Dyer, a Tax Manager in our Fort Worth, Texas office and member of our Asian Pacific-Islander Network, shares five lessons she learned immigrating to America.  Vy was born in Dalat, Vietnam and moved to the U.S. when she was 16 years old to attend school.

I was very inspired by Emily Snow’s blog on the five leadership lessons she learned from our CEO, Matt Snow, so I wanted to share five of the lessons I learned moving to the U.S..


1. Dream big.

When I was eight, I wanted to study abroad, even though I had little comprehension of what it actually meant. When I was 16, I boarded my first flight and left home by myself to move across the world and become an exchange student. There were many adventures, both positive and humbling. After the exchange year, I went back to Vietnam for the summer without a plan and only knew I really wanted to be back in the States. Due to the curriculum differences between Vietnam and U.S., my options were studying as a junior again in Vietnam or going back to the U.S. as a senior. However, I found a third option, taking the GED internationally in Thailand. This was the route I ultimately chose, and I was back in America ten months after I left and enrolled as a freshman at a community college. I recall having the hardest time deciding what I wanted to do. I have always loved languages and was studying Elementary Education, but it never fit quite right – it was like trying on a pair of shoes I loved that did not fit. While struggling to figure out what I wanted to pursue, I read that “Accounting is the language of business” and everything clicked. I chose to study accounting and never looked back, except for those times I studied for the CPA exams during busy season. My mom and dad told me that sometimes the profession will choose the person. In my case, I intended to be an auditor, but my first offer was for tax, and now after seven years of working in tax, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. 


2. Be kind.

One of my favorite sayings is, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” I have always prioritized being kind to others, but I have not always prioritized being kind to myself. It took a lot of work and time for me to learn that you also need to be kind and give yourself grace.  I learn every day that kindness comes in different shapes and forms, and each person needs a different type of kindness for the specific chapters of their life. Sometimes, kindness means giving yourself and your colleagues grace and patience. Sometimes, kindness means empathizing through quiet understanding. Sometimes, kindness is speaking up and breaking the silence on what is wrong. Sometimes, kindness means meeting ourselves where we are right now. And always, kindness is never out of fashion. 


3. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

To put this into perspective, think about missing Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past 14 years. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Vietnam, so my comparison is missing Lunar New Year celebrations.   While I have missed Lunar New Year, on the other hand, I did get to spend 14 Thanksgivings in America, including two with my parents visiting from Vietnam. For us expats, it is quite common to only see our family in-person once a year or once every couple of years. The quantity of time we spend together is much less, so we focus on the quality of time together. I am not sure if I would be as appreciative and intentional about the time I spent with my family, if I lived near any of them. 



4. Love transcends all differences.

One of my biggest blessings since moving to America is meeting my husband. It’s surreal how we are together, and we couldn’t be more different. My husband is an all-American boy from Arkansas with a passion for world history, natural sciences and botany. I am a hopeless romantic with a passion for chick flicks, Asian dramas and, honestly, taxes. We are in a multiracial marriage and always have fun teaching each other our cultures. In Vietnamese, we say “duyen phan” which means “fateful coincidence.” Whether or not that is true for us, we find common ground in supporting each other and making it through this journey called life by making a choice every day to love the other unconditionally.  We have definitely learned a deep appreciation of each other’s culture. My husband even took part in my brother’s wedding, carried a roasted pig and wore traditional clothing. I cannot think of a better expression of cultural appreciation. I do have the below picture to prove this.  


5. We are all in this together.

It has been a strange, long and often sad year. The pandemic, the rise of social injustices, and many other macro issues have left us all drained and exhausted. Yet as Sigmund Freud said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” While there is so much work to be done to lift up those that have never been put first, to heal the rifts in our country and to mend the fences where broken, optimism helps me look ahead and focus on the similarities rather than differences among humans. As my heart aches for the rise in violence against my community, I understand these actions represent a small part of my second home. I see the violence, but I also see hope and empowerment from my second family here at DHG. The firm has been incredibly supportive and protective of our AAPI community and vowed to continue uplifting I&D initiatives to make DHG a welcoming place for all.  For that, I am thankful.


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