Let Your Voice be Heard

Story by

VY Jiang

From

China

Major/Field

Level

Undergraduate

Imagine if you showed up on the first day of class and everyone thought they already knew you. With one look at you, your classmates seem to guess that you are an engineering student, that you are not good at sports, and that a hoard of people that just like you is about to burst in and start babbling in a language that your classmate do not understand. And the domestic students and international students do not interact a lot. This was what my first day was like as an Asian international student.

If you are thinking about one of these students, then you are not thinking about me. Unlike the stereotyped Asian who is quiet and shy, I am outgoing and enjoy sports; I like to challenge myself with humanities subjects in a non-native language; most importantly, I want to make my voice heard by others. I am certain that many of you are the same. We all have insightful ideas; it was just that our English-as-second-language hindered our ability temporarily. You should never let stereotype overshadow you.

This is a story of mine from my freshmen year. As one of the only two international students in a sociology class of 50, I struggled a lot to get my voice heard. Thinking I am an “Asian doll” who knows only smiling and nodding, my classmates constantly saw through me during group discussion as if I am transparent. What was really happening was that I was sort of slow on engaging in small talks such as latest celebrity news ahead of group discussion since I was new to U.S.

However, as time passed, despite the domestic students ignoring me, I utilized the knowledge I learned to examine my situation and overcame it by actively seeking chances to make my voice heard by others. Although English is not my first language, I actively sought chances to talk in class and present my own ideas. During group discussions, although my peer group thought I would not express any opinion like the usual Asian international students, I stepped forward instead of following and letting them put words into my mouth. 

For example, once the class was discussing how has race and ethnicity changed in our family over the three generations and has class status changed – has there been upward or downward mobility, or has class status been essentially reproduced across the generations. This is an assignment tailored to the American society and was supposed to reflect on how the class structure of the entire society has evolved. My class was not expecting me to contribute anything to this discussion, but I believe that theories are applicable universally. I analyzed my family mobility factoring the special history background of China during these three generations. I shared my findings with the class and interestingly enough that the trend echoes with their findings as well. This incidence once proved that there is no boundary or barrier in front of academia.

Eventually, I integrated into the class and expanded others’ as well as my own educational experience.

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