Hello, fellow freshmen!
For some of us, college is more than just around the corner – it's standing right in front of us, throwing seemingly impossible obstacles. Like everybody else at the end of their teens, you may experience a multitude of emotions that push you to grow in incredible ways. But your experience also contains a little bit of authentic food and translations (or original versions) of Chinese literature. After all, we cannot change who we are, but we can certainly fine-tune the way we perceive the world and think about how we can respond to situations in relation to our identity. Here are a few situations Chinese-Americans can definitely relate to as we head off to college.
1. Sick of dorm food? You whip out one of these.
Admit it, you have spent moments scratching your head in total confusion when your non-Chinese friends pour a bag of instant white rice into boiling water. You couldn’t fathom cooking rice that way. All your life, you probably could not imagine a life without rice cookers, whether it be rain or shine, winter or summer, day or night. You were taught as a child that grains are more important than drinking water, but you’ll need both to sift the rice properly. When college rolls around, you’ll need that rice cooker for more than what its namesake suggests – put anything edible in there and you will have (food item) congee/soup, and it’s sometimes infinitely better than whatever they have out there in the dining halls.
2. Question: Where are you REALLY from?
… come again?
You don’t mind people who are interested in different cultures, but it’s truly a head-scratcher (like aforementioned instant rice) when they simply assume that you’re foreign-born because you have certain features, monosyllabic names or are using chopsticks with fluency. Okay, sometimes they’re not wrong, but you still feel a bit unsettled. After all, everyone should be asked that question in America, a nation founded by immigrants who wanted better lives for themselves, so why target you?
3. The feeling when another ethnically Chinese person thrives at life and suddenly they are your biggest role model.
There are millions like Chan in America who are breaking glass ceilings twice as hard as others, as they're powerful game changers who help others in the process, yet our media fails to give these wonderful human beings ample spotlights (I am giving you a shout-out, Hollywood, a place where we have to be grateful to even be a regular in a film). Sometimes, you feel that your fight is invisible and a lot of people still do not recognize the struggles Chinese-Americans go through on a daily basis, on and off college campuses.
The fight is a good one, and it’s getting us back on the right track. There are also millions out there who are looking up to us, just like how we look up to those who are making a difference in an array of careers. I’m looking at you, college boys and girls, you are at an important time in history, where people are listening, many times digitally, and you’re doing great.
4. Explaining to your roommate that you really cannot take the bed next to the AC.
Maybe it’s the superstitions that you could catch a cold the instant you put your face in front of an AC vent. You kindly decline your roommate’s offer of letting you take the bed next to the AC. In fact, you enforce the no-fan-at-night rule in any way you can. Your Chinese parents were probably the most environmentalist-type people just by giving you this habit, and you secretly thank them for it because you realize that less AC helps you in the long run, and the earth too.
Why does the room need to feel like an igloo over summer anyways?
5. While you’re happy to see that Affirmative Action had helped a lot of your friends, you let out a sigh at the same time.
Asian-Americans, on average, need to have SATs that are 140 points higher than their Caucasian peers in order to be accepted into a competitive institution. Additionally, the fierce competition within and outside of the Chinese community is a non-stop ride on the struggle bus. Your parents are likely hoping you to be one of these doctors, businessmen/women, lawyers, engineers, etc. Sure, the horizon is pretty wide and non-STEM people can still find a way around those expectations, but a lot of us carry the burden that one day, being a YAP (Young Asian Professional) is going to be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Here is what I want to let you know: success is by no means dictated by the amount of money you acquire. It’s a state of mind that is best measured by how much you give to the world that will reward you in one way or other. Don’t let anybody else tell you how you should live your life, because if you do not find the long and winding road an enjoyable one, the problems will likely not go away. It’s worth your parents’ freak out to take that psych internship, believe me.
6. Despite the occasional oops from the world, being Chinese is AWESOME.
It is sometimes difficult to be a person of color in the United States, but above are just a few of the many wonderful things sometimes only we can fully understand.
Being a proud Chinese-American is to be proud of who we are, and this article is here to tell you that you aren’t alone. So go out there and enjoy college! You will learn a lot in the process and it's going to go by faster than you expect.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels