I’ve stopped trying to fit in with the majority, and it’s only led me to feel liberated and more like I belong.
I was born and raised in a city of 13 million in China. At the age of 16, I moved to a town of 50,000 in Montana to join my mother’s side of the family that had immigrated there years ago. I remember distinctly how out of place I felt at school – I didn’t speak English, dressed different, and looked different. Almost everyone around me was White, and the only “Asian community” I had was my cousin, two exchange students, and two other Asian immigrants. Ironically, it was also this “Asian community” that made me feel most isolated – the more “Americanized” Asians like my cousin, didn’t want to be associated with me at school because I was different, and being different meant uncool, unpopular.
Later I went to a small college in Montana, and I steered myself away from the only few Asians there so that I could “better” assimilate to the American culture by having predominantly white friends. Post graduation, I moved around the globe for a career in oil and gas construction, where Asians were so underrepresented that I did everything to leave my Asian identity behind for a better career future. Along the way, I lost my Chinese accent, looked a lot more “fit in”, and proved that I was no longer different, that I was finally the “in-group” with the majority. Yet at the same time, I was lost, didn’t know where I belonged, and felt lonelier than ever.
It wasn’t until the GSB that I finally started reconnecting with my Chinese identity. Being surrounded by many Asian classmates was unfamiliar and almost uncomfortable at first – I’m no longer the only Asian at a given place! But the instant connections I shared with this community made me feel seen, heard, and no longer ashamed for being an outsider. I’ve stopped trying to fit in with the majority, and it’s only led me to feel liberated and more like I belong. Now, being Asian means to me that I’m comfortable with my imperfect English, my Chinese culture, my Asian and non-Asian friends, and my "different"-yet-authentic self.