The Price of Education

HughYang

By Hugh Yang | Lambda Phi Epsilon

My parents grew up in the rural areas of China, where they spent most of their time doing agricultural work. Due to the lack of help on the farms, they gave up their education in order to cultivate crops and survive with food. Their lack of education allowed them to realize the importance of school. In order to ensure the dream of education and an improvement of lifestyle, they once again took another sacrifice, and abandoned their country, family, and culture. Their sacrifice was to ensure that my sister and I can be born in the United States, a land of opportunity and prosperity.

In the United States, my parents’ lack of education forbade them to communicate with people around them, forcing them to work in sweatshops and Chinese restaurants. Their jobs require them to work six days a week, 13 hard working hours a day. Their dedication and work took away the precious family bonding time that I never had. Since the age of 10, I had to carry the responsibility of taking care of my younger sister and writing family checks to pay off our monthly bills. As other kids left school at 3pm and headed towards the park, I had to go and pick up my sister and prepare dinner.
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(We Know) We Can Do It!

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By Jane Hong | Student Association Vice President Elect

When I was in third grade, my teacher asked who wanted to be our class representative. My hand immediately shot up in the air at the same time as a male classmate’s. He noticed, and yelled across the classroom: “You can’t do it, you’re just a girl!”

Student government has been a passion of mine ever such a young age. I enthusiastically volunteered for any leadership opportunity and ran for Associated Student Body (ASB) and class positions throughout middle and high school. Almost every single time I campaigned, I heard racist and sexist comments: people using my racial and gender identities against me, as if those were factors that contributed to my potential to lead an organization effectively.

I threw tantrums about these comments to my teachers, to which they would usually shrug off. I clearly remember how shocked I was when my female teacher asked me to sit out a campaign once, because “ladies know how to be quiet and men know how to talk.” I was taught how to be silent before I was taught how to use my voice, and told that my gender inherently made me a follower before it could ever make me a leader.

As much as I hoped that organizing a university-wide campaign would be different, I knew that it wouldn’t be.

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A Fusion of Flavors

JoyMuchtar

By Joy Muchtar |  Kappa Phi Lambda

Main Dish

Nasi campur: an Indonesian dish with fragrant jasmine rice as the main centerpiece and a halo of side dishes surrounding it.

Made's Warung - Nasi Campur - 好吃!Rice / 米饭 / nasi // is a staple for both Indonesian and Chinese culture. I am of Chinese blood but Indonesian by birth. Both cultures, though different yet similar, resonated with me throughout my 19 years of living. The rainbow-colored side dishes surrounds the rice and represents the experiences I went through to make me the person I am today.

Side Dishes

Satay: pieces of chicken, beef or pork on wooden skewers that are grilled over hot coals.

Sometimes pieces of your mind and soul will be tested upon the flames of life, you can either let yourself burn and not be edible anymore, or you can flourish through it and become a delicious counterpart to a main dish.

Sayur mayur: various kinds of chopped vegetables.

Vegetables can be cooked in different ways to satisfy the tongue; with chopped garlic, with hot chili paste, with savory oyster sauce. This time, it’s vegetables eaten in it’s best way: raw and fresh. Because sometimes things or people, untouched and pure, are the best kind.

Tempeh: fermented whole soybeans that are packed together to resemble a cake full of protein; usually deep fried or sautéed in a soy-sauce base.

This side is only completed after the soybeans have matured for quite some time; with the right choices and loving guidance from the people in my life, I hope to grow and be as good as raw tempeh.

Telor: boiled or fried eggs

My motto in life is actually: “Be so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too.” I hope this short essay has been the sunny side up to your already wonderful day.

With my spoon and fork,

Joy Ananda Muchtar // 李佩恩

Identifying Myself: Who Am I?

PhoenixBan

By Phoenix Ban | Sigma Beta Rho

In 1993, my family immigrated from Vietnam to Syracuse, NY. Born and raised here in this quiet city, everyone occasionally asks, “What is there to do in Syracuse?” Honestly, I don’t know what there is to do despite living at the core of the city. Growing up as the only child with only a single parental figure, it was difficult doing anything outside of the household without worrying my mom. I remember in my free time, I would play with a multiplication table that my mom bought for me for doing well in middle school. Ever since then, I have been extremely competitive in the game, “Around the World.” For those who don’t know, it’s a math game where two people respond with the proper number when a card is revealed. If a person makes it all around the classroom, he won a free homework pass. However, it wasn’t the free pass that enticed me, but rather this Vietnamese girl whose intelligence automatically attracted me to her.

I remember multiple occasions where I would bring home an Asian girl to meet my parents, and they would always manage to kid around asking, “Do co phai ban gai khong?” Sadly, my keyboard doesn’t enable accents, but translated, it means “Is that your girlfriend?” However, whenever I introduce a girl outside of my culture, the dialog between my family and them seem to diminish. Because my mom is so protective of me, she told me that I can only date a girl, preferably Vietnamese, if and when I graduate from college. Truth be told, I somewhat kind of broken that promise. Due to a rebellious nature during high school where over 95% of the population did not come from a similar cultural background, my first official girlfriend was a quiet, shy, but nice, Caucasian girl. But inevitably, my mom figured out about the relationship and forbade it to continue any further. 

Thanks to the guidance of my mother, I often date outside of my culture now very discretely. She taught me the value of family, to not trust anyone, to strive to be a doctor, and to excel in academics. It was my auntie though, who pushed me beyond my limits with reading and writing. It is probably her fault that I abhor the thought of writing essays for class. Even now, I still vividly remember the times I had to write one-page essays, single-spaced, with a pen for each chapter I read. The amount of times I had to write the alphabet on paper also contributed to the callus on my middle finger due to the constant pressure I placed on it. My grandma on the other hand was learning how to be very hip in clothing trends despite her limited ability to understand or communicate in English. She was very affectionate with her gifts, and always made pho for me when I come back from breaks in school. Her kindred spirit taught my mom how to cook, and in turn that skill was passed down to me.

As a first-generation college-bound Asian American, I feel somewhat exiled from other Asian Americans that comes from California or New York City. It may have to do with the large amount of K-pop, gai luong, and Hong Kong phim bo that I immersed myself in as a kid. Although my mom is always busy working, I feel that she intentionally pushed me to watch and listen to a lot of bootlegged shows to unconsciously teach me familial values. I feel like a lot of people in my age cohort never learned how to cook or do laundry until coming into college which is really mind blowing. The level of promiscuity evident on campus is also apparently a norm, but because I am so mentally traditional, I’m always on the lookout for a normal relationship.

Defending Hybrid Identity: Reconciling the New and the Old

PhoebeSudargo

By Phoebe Sudargo | Asian Students in America

One question that I am tired of being asked of is: “where are you from?” Over the years, I have been debating to give one default answer. Should it be: “China,” “Indonesia,” or “Seattle?” My experience tells me that each of those answers would yield different stereotypes, which 90% of the time are not true.

My family originates from the Southern part of China. During the World War II, when communism regime ruled and poverty struck the entire land, my grandparents left China and migrated to Indonesia to seek a better life. To this day, whenever I look at my current condition, I thank them for making those decisions.

However, simultaneously being Chinese and growing up in Indonesia contributed to my first cultural identity crisis. I grew up speaking Chinese and English since I went to an international school, but I am also forced to learn the native language to communicate with the native people. And my father chose to adopt an Indonesian surname—while still keeping our Chinese surname—in order to “blend in” more with the locals. He claimed it would make it easier to do business with them. To me, it was a pathetic attempt at cultural homogenization. No matter what, I still fail to accept the Indonesian culture and identity completely.

When I moved to the United States for high school four years ago, I experienced my second cultural identity crisis. This time it was the classic “East versus West” cultural clash that most second-generation Asian immigrants would experience. I was very much intrigued by the liberal way of life that western ideology offers, making me abandon most of my eastern ideology in favor of this new way of life. I could not help but think that collectivist and patriarchal ideas are unnecessarily restrictive and unfair, especially for the female.

Thus, when I visited my parents during my first summer break, what ought to be heart-warming reunion turned into horrible family quarrels that happened nearly every day. I talked back to my parents most of the time, something they never expected me to do. Opposing your parents is simply a taboo and disrespectful. I could not wait to go back to my “home” in Seattle where I was free to express my ideas and live the way I want.

But, when I moved from Seattle to Syracuse, where the Asian population is considerably smaller than in the west coast, I began to appreciate how precious the Asian culture was. And I cannot help but to gravitate towards the Asian community here. I find comfort in my Chinese friends, whom not only speak the same language as I do, but also share the same diasporic experiences. And through ASIA, an Asian American student organization on campus, I find how my fellow Asian friends are also struggling with their American and Asian identity. Through them, I learn that when it comes to cultural identity, there is no dichotomous way of deciding. It is fine to be a hybrid. It is fine to live and think from both sides of Asian and American culture. And more importantly, it is unique and beautiful to be Asian American.

Caught Between Two Worlds

DianaChin

By Diana Chin | Asian Students in America

*Accidentally bumps into someone*
“Sorry.” I said.
*Man turns around*
“Dang! Your English is clear. Where are you from?” said the Man. 

My name is Diana Chin. I am American born Chinese, known as ABC, but this identity is not as easy as 1,2,3.

I grew up in Cupertino, California, a city that is 31% Caucasian, 63% Asian, a city where my demographic was easily accepted. And to this day as an Asian American, I struggle to define myself, straddling between “Western” teachings and my family’s “Eastern” ways. I remember coming home from elementary school, dropping my backpack on the ground, and racing against time to catch The Fairly OddParents. But within seconds of the show, my mother would come in, turn off the TV, and say “homework time.”

Growing up, there were always two ways of doing things. How to solve a math problem, how to hold a pencil, how to sit in perfect posture, how to correctly write a Chinese character. There was always the debate between how my teacher taught me and how my mother learned. There was always the debate between peanut butter jelly sandwich or fried rice for lunch. There was always the debate about eating out or cooking at home, let alone sitting outside or inside at a restaurant. 

But on the contrary, my father would come home and bring me to the park to play soccer and run around. Letting my mind loose of the dreaded homework my mother would remind me about. He would buy me a Slurpee as oppose to herbal tea, or eat a hamburger instead of Chinese porridge. Looking back, I had experienced two worlds in one household.

And then I came to Syracuse University, where the tables have turned and Asians make up a minute population. Yet that feeling of two worlds struck me again with a whirlwind of emotions. But my identity as an Asian American has never left me even being 2,400 miles away from home. Through the friendships made, organizations and activities involved, experiences gained, I continue to learn what it means to be an Asian America. 

Identifying as an Asian American is my way of refusing to choose between either, and instead, finding value in both. I may not be able to understand fully what it means to be completely American or completely Chinese. But I continue to gain a greater appreciation and discovery in exploring my Chinese-American heritage. 

And yes, my “English is clear,” but more importantly, I am Asian American.

Let Your Hair Down

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By Jenn Bacolores

For as long as I could remember, I always wanted straight, silky hair. Every girl at school had nice hair and could wear the cutest accessories, but I couldn’t. My hair was so wavy and big that once I combed it out, it looked like Mia’s hair from the Princess Diaries.

Getting ready in the morning when I was in grade school was a chore. I would get so upset having to separate my hair into five different layers and keep going over it for thirty minutes. I would comb each layer over and over, hoping it would stay taut – without a sight of a wave. When I was old enough, I saved up enough allowance to buy my first straightener, a white Revlon straightener with gold ceramic plates at Sav-On. I wanted the “Chinese” straight hair my cousins had; they had silky strands of black hair that straighter than what any straightener could transform.

My cousins teased me since I was the odd one out. They said my hair was “Islander Hair.” Having never been to the Philippines, I thought it was the biggest insult I’ve ever had. At the time, my knowledge about the Philippines (and probably life) was below average at best. All I could imagine was big, puffy haired women from Philippine Island Tribes – and I wanted to be nothing like that.

Boy, was I wrong.

My mom said I should embrace it – each strand was like the roots of our family and that it reminded her of her sisters and grandmother’s hair. As the (premature) sassy 5th grader I was, I snapped back and said “That’s because you didn’t have straighteners in your day. You don’t understand!”

My mom fought back saying, “It’s okay to be different.”

No Mom, it wasn’t.

I was one of the smartest students at my kindergarten through eighth grade school. I was prescribed glasses in the first grade and finally forced myself to wear them in third grade when I couldn’t see from the second row. I started cooking my own meals like I was Iron Chef since I was in second grade. I was really different Mom; can I at least make my hair straight and be somewhat normal?

I upped my straightener game year after year, asking for the latest straighteners on the market for Christmases and birthdays and using products that promised defrizzing and smooting properties. Once I reached high school, I knew I had the frizz under control and the waves were nowhere to be seen.

Fast-forward ten years of sun/snow damage, a couple bottles of hair smoothing serums, and about eleven hair treatments: I am a graduate student at the University of Southern California, specializing in Business Taxation. I will be starting full time with a global public accounting firm in the Fall of 2015 as a tax specialist. I am also a 2014 graduate from Syracuse University, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance. And lastly, I am a 23-year-old Filipino American woman, and I take pride in my hair regimen.

If I haven’t lost you yet (especially those of you who had to Google search “Revlon straightener gold plates” a couple paragraphs ago), my hair regimen includes a deep conditioning mask once a week, daily use of sulfate free products, and a Brazilian Blowout every two months (be careful Googling that one).

My hair regimen attempts to do the opposite of what I’ve done to my hair for the past ten years. I am actually trying to restore it to its “Islander” condition, in the same way I am trying to reconnect myself to my heritage.

To this day, I still haven’t visited the Philippines or met my 20+ family members who live there. My knowledge of traditional Filipino recipes includes dissecting fast-food orders from the restaurant around the block and the aromas that sneak past my Bath and Body Works candles from the kitchen into my bedroom. My understanding of Tagalog, the main language of the Philippines, is nowhere close to what my titas and titos (aunts and uncles) tell me. My Ilocano, the dialect of my family’s island, is even worse. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to restore that connection.

My first international vacation will be to the Philippines. I want to be able to host a dinner for my family, comb the beaches of Cebu, and ride the Jeepneys like a pro. My boyfriend and I share the same love for sinigang, a sour slow-cooked pork stew, and patis, a fermented fish sauce basically good on anything (well … we think). I am currently using my Iron Chef cooking skills and family stories to learn how to make it.

Once I finish my graduate program, I am picking up Rosetta Stone and learning basic Tagalog so one day, I can finally answer back coherently.

So Mom, you were right. It’s okay to be different, but it’s also important to understand why. 

This month, and every month, regardless of what “box” society tells me to check when I fill out a survey or a standardized test, it brings me back to understanding my worth. I know that even if I check the box or decline to state, I are more than just a label. In a world full of constants and normalized actions, I have come to realize that everyone is different. The true beauty is embracing their differences, especially my own, and sharing that with the world.