Dobie High School senior Hung Vu still remembers darting around cars and motorcycles on a highway in Vietnam comparable to Interstate 45 without traffic lights or caution signs as he traveled two miles each way to school - only to arrive at an antiquated building with limited black and white textbooks, no computers or air conditioning.
However, just a little over four years ago Vu's life changed when he and his family moved to the United States.
"I remember when I first got off the plane and I saw all the highways I immediately questioned how people don't get lost in the city. Then we went to Wal-Mart and I couldn't believe that they sold so many things in one store. Later, we went to McDonald's and the food came out so fast, it was unreal to me," Vu recalled.
Missing the first half of his freshman year and not knowing how to read, write or speak any English, Vu initially struggled to get acclimated to his new environment. As he navigated the hallways, in between his classes he was in awe of his classmates as they casually conversed with one another and he wanted to be able to communicate with them.
With Vu's desire for success and much support from his teachers and counselors he's more than conquered the English language. Hung, who is graduating from Dobie, is ranked among the top 10 students in his senior class. He was also named a Dell Scholar, was a member of the academic decathlon team and was voted "most studious" by his classmates.
"I had nothing and knew nothing about America when I came here and Dobie's teachers and staff became like my godparents," he said. "They've done so much for me and I thank God for them.
"When I first got here I would have to ask so many questions but my teachers never got tired of repeating things so that they could make sure I did the right assignments," Vu recalls.
Studying is a full -time job for Vu. Over the winter break, he and the academic decathlon team studied everyday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. only taking four days off. As part of his daily routine, Vu studies immediately after school. When he's not studying, he enjoys volunteering with the youth society at his church.
"Hung works really hard but he's also the funniest student I know," Dobie senior counselor Erin Thompson said. "I've enjoyed working with him so much."
In the fall, Vu will be majoring in chemistry at the University of St. Thomas, where he will study to become a research pharmacist.
Vu said it is because of some of his own health issues that inspired his to choose his field of study. "I thank the pharmacist and everyone who helps create medicine that helps me stay alive and well," he said.
Vu is also eternally grateful to his parents for risking so much and making the move to the United States that changed his life.
"My parents have always worked hard for me. My inspiration is to one day be able to become successful, so I that they can retire and do not have to work anymore," he said.
Vu has learned and now lives by one of his favorite quotes by Thomas Edison, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."