At 7:30 pm on February 19th, history was made at Hope College as ten Hope students told their TEDxHopeCollege talks at the Knickerbocker Theatre. The speakers confidently shared their stories, beliefs, and thoughts in order for the campus and societal community to become a more positive environment for all. There were various topics spoken about including stories about immigration, renewable energy, and living with borderline personality disorder. Speaker An Hà told a short story entitled ‘Dear College Student.’ The purpose of An’s story was to equip students to feel more comfortable and seen when it comes to feelings of homesickness and transitioning into college.
An is a talented and experienced speaker as she writes and performs spoken words and slam poetry at some events such as Black Lives Matter marches, climate change protests, and in front of 200 Vietnamese youth. An was part of a speech and debate club in high school that took place every Saturday. She is not only used to it, but enjoys the skills of public speaking that she gained from this club as well as theater. An notes how she is used to knowing how to project her voice and body – and it showed. An spoke with poise, confidence and authenticity.
When asking An why she decided to apply for TEDxHopeCollege, she laughed because she never even intended to apply in the first place. An is a Dykstra RA, former President of WOCU (Women of Color United) and now Junior Rep, and much more! Adding another commitment into the mix seemed like too much. An spoke on how her dear friend constantly pleaded with her to apply. An stated “Whenever I saw him on campus he would ask: ‘Have you applied yet?’ and eventually, I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose.’” An said she attempted to make her application very organized in thought and when she made it to the next round she was actually really ecstatic. For the next part of interviews, An wrote a 3-5 minute section and memorized her speech to present to the TEDxHopeCollege Executive Team. She says that after she performed it she felt proud of herself and thought she had a good chance at becoming a speaker. After a long and hard 48 hour wait, she received the notice that she and some of her friends who she describes as ‘advocates and local leaders’ were going to be speakers!
An has a passion to ‘show up as her authentic self in art form’ to the world and her fellow peers. She says that it is so much fun and something that she is passionate about doing. An is an Asian-American woman and wants her uncommon identity (on Hope’s campus) to be known. However, she said that she realized she is much more than that – she is a human being with a story. She wanted to share her story, her friends’ stories, and her residents’ stories, all of which deserved to be told. As an RA, An has watched and walked alongside her residents who have all left home, who navigate homesickness, and who go through stages of grief and mourning. An also has many friends who are first-generation college students at Hope and she herself came in as a transfer student her sophomore year.
An stated, “Loneliness is one of the most isolating things students can go through and that it’s so prevalent for first-year students. It’s not something that we talk about enough. I can emphasize that as a transfer student, it was so hard for me.”
She continued as she stated, “Having to learn how to undo all the bad of high school, while figuring out your identity, making friends and trying different things is hard. Finding support systems is hard because all the ones we are used to are ripped out from under the rug. It’s about accessibility. And accessibility can change someone’s life”.
She noted that as college students, we are all people who have been uprooted and that that is jarring for anyone, but of course, comes with different levels. It came to her attention as being an RA in a freshman girl’s dorm: “First years don’t always necessarily know where support is on campus and they will most commonly not take initiative to go and find this. Lots of first-year students don’t want to go or be placed alone because there is a fear of embarrassing themselves. They are scared of being rejected by the group they are going into.” An is passionate about each individual feeling included in a space and not feeling like “they are walking into being in the background.”
An concluded her talk by telling Hope College, “I am not a doctor. I don’t have the solution. I don’t have a diagnosis for the world, but I can offer a question, ‘How can I make you feel more seen?’”
TEDxHopeCollege: The Threshold speakers from left to right: Kelsey Sivertson, Andrea Hernandez, Claire Benedict, Amadu Bah, Venecia Rodriguez, Jack Wallace, Lizzy Bassett, An Hà, and Isabella Mbabazi Musherure (Photo credit: An Hà)