“Even though I grew up in different Asian countries, my family wants me to be completely Japanese. So, we only speak Japanese at home.”
I moved a lot when I was young. I don’t really have much memory about that. I was born in Thailand and then I moved to Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and finally I came here. I also lived in Japan for nine months. For the first seven years, I primarily lived in Asia. People were very nice to me because I was a little kid. They were very welcoming and very kind. There was lots of nature where I lived and I didn’t need to study too much. But when I came to New York City, that completely changed since I had to study a lot. The elementary school I went to was really hard. My parents picked that school, by accident, and it happened to be the second best elementary school in all New York. Back then, I didn’t know that much English. And there weren’t many Japanese people in school. So, communicating was really hard and tests were really hard. People around me were very stressed out, and competitive, unlike that places where I had lived in Malaysia and Taiwan that were primarily countryside. People there were always relaxed. I speak Japanese and I used to speak Chinese and Korean, but I don’t remember those languages anymore. Japanese was my first language and even though I grew up in different Asian countries, my family wants me to be completely Japanese. So, we only speak Japanese at home. My parents are very traditional Japanese people. They taught me from a very young age about Japanese culture and manners. So even today, I feel more comfortable when I am around Japanese people. On campus, I fit in very well among the international Japanese students because our parents raised us up similarly. We have very similar values which are very different from American values.
“To be an immigrant, means to be someone creating a space for themselves within a community they were not born into.”
I grew up in India in the early 80s. I think my first recollection of the word ‘immigrant’ was hearing it used to describe the plight of a community called Kashmiri pandits who were forced to leave their homes and the state because of terrorist activities. As a child, the word had a negative connotation for me, it meant being in an artificial state, being helpless, alone, and scared. However, as I grew up, I learnt, immigration could also be a choice. A deliberate conscious decision to create a new life and start afresh. But for me the underlying tone is always that of an outsider. To be an immigrant, means to be someone creating a space for themselves within a community they were not born into. As the world grows more and more divisive, I feel, immigrant has turned into a term to differentiate between “us” and “them.” As is evident, I personally don’t care for the term, though I did choose to be an “immigrant” instead of being forced to be one, it still means being an outsider.
“Somehow I never feel like I fit in anywhere, and yet somehow I fit in everywhere.”
I’ve definitely always felt like an odd-ball. Somehow, I never feel like I fit in anywhere, and yet somehow I fit in everywhere. It’s hard to explain – I find that I can always find a way to relate to people on some level, but when it comes to groups of people, I’ve always felt that because of my different perspectives. I’ve always been a little different. In the U.S., I feel weird because of my Hungarian identity. In Hungary, I feel weird because of my American mentality. However,I do believe that being part of multiple cultures is super beneficial because your horizons are broadened. I wouldn’t trade being part of multiple cultures for anything because it’s become an integral part of who I am as a person and what I aspire to be. I think #dreamers are extremely hard workers and the requirements in order to become a dreamer are very strict. Therefore, I truly admire their strength and motivation to come to this country under those terms. I didn’t realize how unwelcome I truly was in this country until President Trump’s election. The fact that he’s president signifies that a majority of the country thinks that immigrants are a detriment rather than a benefit to this country. Immigrants are the base ground for the economy. Immigrants don’t ‘steal’ jobs, they do the jobs that others don’t want to do. If they move up in the socio-economic world, then that’s because they worked hard and they deserve it – just like everyone else. The United States is quite literally built on immigration; it’s a melting pot of cultures. These policies that are restricting people with citizenships and green cards from entering the country, as well as immigrants who are a huge percentage of our labor force – are stripping away America’s identity. The United States was always considered as the land of opportunity, and for the past year and a half (since Trump announced his candidacy), the U.S. has been the biggest joke around the world.
“I grew up in a society where you do not question the government so the concept of social justice was so foreign to me.”
When I first arrived in New York City, I found it so different from what I had expected.
I thought New York City would be like Hong Kong, 24 hours with endless night light and endless stream of people. But right before our flight landed in JFK, I looked down from the window, feeling a quiet winter, rather than a busy metropolis.
Maybe it was because of the coldness, but I remember clearly my first day in the U.S. I arrived around eight o’clock at night, and all stores were closed. Furthermore, very few people were walking on the street.
Everything was harder than I thought. I joined my class in the middle of the semester, and it was an awkward time to make friends. Plus, I was totally new here.
There was so many things in class I couldn’t understand during my first semester. I remember that during history class, there was a lecture about the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. It was about China so I assumed that I knew what they are talking about, but I had never learned that in school before.
My father had told me something about that before, and it have been mentioned on some documentary on TV too but I did not know much about it . I am from Guangdong (a mainland province next to Hong Kong).
The TV in our house back in China can receive TV signal from Hong Kong, like TVB channel of Hong Kong. But when it starts to talk about some sensitive issue, the image on TV we received would quickly turn into advertisement.
I found it ironic that I finally learned about this painful part of Chinese history in America during class. But even then when I learned about it, I still didn’t understand the reason behind the protest, the point of such uprising.
I was very naive and obedient. I grew up in a society where you do not question the government so the concept of social justice was so foreign to me.