YKK Stories

Be a Lifelong Learner

May 22, 2020
Author: YKK
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This is one of my favorite Fundamental Behaviors because it takes me back to when I first came to America.  My father and I escaped Vietnam in 1980, huddled in a small boat with a few others.  Some of us didn’t survive the journey, but my dad and I were fortunate enough to make it to a Thailand refugee camp.  Through the lengthy process of immigration, we somehow found ourselves in Chamblee, Georgia.  We were blessed to finally reach America, a great country of opportunities, to start our new life journey.

I was 9 years old at the time and could not speak English.  On my first day of 3rd grade, I was curious and hungry to learn about anything and everything.  I saw so many new and interesting things which I’ve never seen compared to the elementary school in Vietnam.  I wanted to ask so many questions, but I couldn’t speak English.  Most Asian kids that were in my position would just stay quiet until they could confidently speak the English language and begin to communicate.  Somehow that first day of school, I was courageous enough to attempt to communicate with my classmates.  I remember the one English sentence I learned back in the refugee camp in Thailand: “How many TVs do you have?”  I approached every kid in that 3rd grade class and asked each one of them: “How many TVs do you have?”  Some kids said something back, though I had no way of understanding any of it.  Some others just gave me a strange mean look and ran away.  Regardless, through embarrassment and shame, we were communicating and making a connection.

After that day, my life completely changed because of that one sentence, “How many TVs do you have?”  Who knew it could make such an impact on my life?  Because of the connection I made with the kids, they started to invite me to join them in whatever activity they were doing and teach me the American way.  I began to learn so much, about American culture as well as the English language.

Sorry to share such a long story, but it reminds me of this week’s Fundamental Behavior: “Be a Lifelong Learner” – being curious and seeking to take advantage of every opportunity to gain more knowledge.  I sometimes get too comfortable and catch myself becoming complacent about trying to learn new things. When I get this way, I try to bring back the mindset, “How many TVs do you have?  I’m sure most of you at one time in your life were curious, hungry to learn, and have a similar story to the “How many TVs do you have?” story.  If you have the drive to leave your comfort zone and seek out new knowledge, it’s amazing what you can learn about the world. The key is to have the courage to raise your hand and seek answers.  It’s not always easy to do, but can change your life in amazing ways.

Thanh Nguyen
Director, Transportation Fastening Group
YKK (U.S.A.) Inc.