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May 24, 2016

Children of Vietnamese refugees return home

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Essential question

What are some challenges immigrants might experience in a new country when it comes to their identity?


When the U.S. Army pulled out of Vietnam more than 40 years ago, many families abandoned their homes and possessions to flee the communist Vietcong forces. Nearly 1.5 million Vietnamese immigrants started over completely in the U.S.

Today, some of the younger generation that grew up in the U.S. are returning to a more prosperous Vietnam to learn more about the culture they left behind and to help stimulate its growing economy.

“There’s so many ways to really make a contribution, to make the life of people here in Vietnam better,” said Henry Nguyen, who grew up in Northern Virginia after fleeing Vietnam with his family as a child. Nguyen returned to Vietnam 12 years ago and now runs the country’s largest venture capitalist fund.

While Viet Kieu — as Vietnamese Americans are known in Vietnam — was once used as a derogatory term for those who left, today locals recognize the resources and benefits associated with returning Vietnamese.


Key terms

Ho Chi Minh City — the largest city in Vietnam; formerly named and still referred to as Saigon

refugee — a person who has been forced to flee a country for political or religious reasons

colonization — the act of establishing a colony in a place in order to take control of an area and send people to live there

venture capitalist fund — funds that invested money in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. What do you know about the country of Vietnam?
  2. How many Vietnamese do you think migrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War?
  3. How have relations between the U.S. and Vietnam changed in recent years?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why would an immigrant wish to return to their country of origin or their family’s homeland?
  2. How might Henry Nguyen’s story be similar to that of other immigrants in the U.S.? How might it be different?
  3. Why is the relationship between the United States and Vietnam important?
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