We Need More “Asian International Students Speaking Up” Events
Eugenia Yuan ’22
On April 18, an event called “Asian International Students Speaking Up” took place at Unity House. It was hosted by JSA and CSA, aiming to give all Asian International students a safe place to share the troubling situations or questions they have while studying in a foreign country that is culturally different from their homeland. Dean Marianne Yoshioka from Smith College School for Social Work was invited as a guest speaker. I attended this event. Feeling comforted and empowered to be surrounded by people who share my problems and concerns and who want to come up with the solution together, I realized that one event is not enough and far from getting to the source of our problems. More similar events are needed and more individuals identified as Asian should be involved.
I have to acknowledge that it is an unforgettable experience for me explain what it is. At the beginning of the event, we wrote down our concerns anonymously in notecards. Then, we shuffled the cards and received a new card, reading it out to the group. The anonymity forced us to pay attention to problems instead of people who have the problems, and writing about my problems anonymously makes me feel safe to share those I most concerned. When I was writing, I felt like the notecard is so small to contain all my problems, so I had to choose some that haunted me most, like not being able to get involved in class discussions, always feeling awkward in group events, and don’t dare to disagree with other’s opinions. However, when we read the notecards out as a group, I found all my problems or concerns, either mentioned or not mentioned in my notecard, were mentioned by other people, from how to participate in class discussions, to either Asians count as POC, from how to act in a different culture, to how difficult it is to bring Asian perspectives or Asian problems to classrooms. Though there is a lot of international students from Asia, for the first time, I felt I am not fighting alone. I realized that many of the problems that have bothered me since I first arrived in the States are not personal but actually derived from my cultural background. Many people are facing the same problems and they are willing to strive to solve the problems together.
When Dean Yoshioka was delivering her speech, I gradually got clarification about some of my concerns and had a sense of how to overcome the problems caused by cultural differences. She assured us that Asians were in fact POC and recommended effective ways for us to speak confidently and aloud in class. Feeling calmed down and empowered when I walked out of Unity House, I also realize that one such event is far from enough. We are working to solve a series of long-term problems that originate from the fundamental differences between Western culture and Eastern culture. Receiving advice is different from carrying it out in real life, and we need each other’s support when we actually try to make a difference in our life. There is a long way to go from not daring to speak up to get our voices or needs heard by others. Also, in this event, we spent more time voicing out our problems and concerns, which was definitely necessary since it created a sense of belonging for us participants. However, after realizing the problems, it is the time for us to figure out how to solve the problems, and we don’t want to deal with them alone again, as we always did before the event. Finally, though “Asian” is such as broad term since “Asia” is such a big continent, most of the people who attended this event are from East Asia or Southeast Asia. Probably it is because we do share more of the same problems thanks to our similar cultural backgrounds and our countries’ similar social environments, but I do believe other Asian international students must have some mutual problems with us thanks to our double identity of both being “Asians” and “foreigners” in this country and on this campus. As a result, I expect this event could be more inclusive and welcome all the students who identified as Asian international students, to voice our mutual or different problems, to comfort each other, to make ourselves more powerful, and to make an impact in this school with our Asian identity.
So, let’s organize more events like “Asian International Students Speaking Up.” Let’s stand in solidarity to solve the problems that we mutually face as “international students from Asia.” Let’s host more Asian events in our community. Let’s speak up and get our voices heard.