INTERSECTIONS AND INSIGHT: INTERVIEWS WITH UCSD’S THIRD CULTURE KIDS

by Madisen Ro
Staff Writer

On a flight back from Oahu, Hawaii, my mother and I sat in an emergency exit row. We were excited about having the extra leg room until a flight attendant asked my mother, “Are you comfortable with performing all of the necessary emergency procedures?”

My mother, a Korean-American elementary school teacher born, raised and educated in Los Angeles, was a little confused, as she had never sat in an emergency exit row before. Though slightly unsure of the exact procedures, she nodded her head, indicating that she would be fine carrying them out. Taking this slight hesitation as a sign of a language barrier, the flight attendant proceeded to ask, “Do you speak English?”

When we visited Seoul, South Korea, my mother found it slightly difficult to adjust to the culture. She didn’t know how to use the metro or the bus system. She didn’t know about the new, trendy Korean street foods, but also didn’t exactly like the bland, simple food at her grandmother’s house.

Feeling like a foreigner in both one’s home country or culture and one’s parents’ home country or culture is a common theme among many “third culture kids.” This term was coined in the 1950s to describe children who grow up in a culture other than their parents’ during their formative years. In my mother’s case, she grew up in America while her parents are from South Korea.

Many different circumstances can qualify someone as a third culture kid. While the term can be applied to immigrants or children of immigrants, it also includes kids who grew up living in many different places. Often, kids follow their parents to different countries because of their jobs. Some kids of diplomats, missionaries, and military personnel grow up in expat communities and others attend boarding school abroad.

As a student at UCSD, it can be easy to dismiss all of the different international influences that are right here on campus. According to admission statistics of the incoming freshmen class of 2016, over 80% of admits are American. It is far more common to be exposed to the perspectives of American students here, yet international students can offer us new viewpoints and mindsets. In such a globalized world, appreciating and learning about people of other cultures makes us more tolerant and fosters new relationships.

Hoping to gain some insight, I interviewed a few students who identified as third culture kids.

Dorothea was born in Singapore, but moved when she was less than two. She has spent most of her life in the Bay Area in Northern California and considers herself Chinese-American. In addition to speaking English fluently, she can speak conversational Mandarin and Cantonese. When visiting family in Hong Kong or Singapore, she states, “Though I don’t feel like an outsider, I know people in that country definitely see me as a tourist.”

Alternatively, Elaine, an international student at UCSD, has lived her entire life abroad in Bangkok, Thailand. She and her family are originally from Taiwan. She attended an international school in Bangkok and can speak English, Mandarin, and Thai fluently. Though she says that she is from Thailand when someone asks her where she is from, she explains, “I feel like an outsider in both [Thailand and Taiwan]… I speak Mandarin and am accustomed to the culture, but I never lived in Taiwan. I live in Thailand, but my family and friends are not Thai.” She also stated that a “cultural barrier” exists whenever she visits Taiwan because she does not understand pop culture references.

Claire is a Michigan-born American girl who spent ages 5 to 10 in Hong Kong and ages 10 to 14 in Belgium due to her father’s jobs. She attended high school in Wisconsin. Though living abroad for nearly 10 years, she says that she “always considered [herself] to be from [America].” She doesn’t consider herself an outsider in the States because she lived in an expat community in both Hong Kong and Belgium. However, she does consider herself an outsider in both those places.

Veronika was born to an American father and a Czech mother, but grew up in Germany. She speaks German, English and Czech fluently and studied French in high school. It’s a bit more difficult for her to explain where she’s from, as people are often surprised to hear that she doesn’t have an accent and that neither of her parents are German despite being from Germany. Veronika states that “there’s been minor instances where I’ve felt like an outsider, but rarely ever in a negative way… Everyone’s been pretty welcoming of my different background and really just excited to hear a different viewpoint…” That’s not to say that her upbringing didn’t bring about awkward situations. There were times when cultural differences such as different snacks, different clothes, or different sports “will make you the cool kid, sometimes the weird kid – it’s a blessing and a curse.”

All of the students had different experiences living in places where their parents are not from. Some people, such as Dorothea, assimilate completely and find their nationality in the country that is different from their parents’. Others, such as Claire, never truly lose the cultural identity of their parents’ home country despite living abroad for so long. Some people, such as Elaine, don’t identify with just one country as their home. It’s often difficult to label people with one nationality or culture, and even the term “third culture kid” includes a wide range of people with unique and independent experiences.

All of the students expressed that their identity as a “third culture kid” has made them a more tolerant or open-minded person in general. Whether it is because they were exposed to multiple cultures from a young age or because they have had unique and diverse experiences growing up abroad, all of the students’ backgrounds growing up have shaped them into who they are.

Veronika words it nicely when she states, “I absolutely think that being a third culture kid has helped me be more open minded and tolerant. Well, more open-minded, more tolerant of different values and opinions, but less tolerant of things like xenophobia and negative cultural stereotypes. My background has made me realize that there really are no blanket statements for nationalities.”

My mother would probably agree. She is not always accepted in America as an American, yet she is a fish out of water in Korea. Lots of people have experienced feeling like a cultural outsider, and yet these situations have shaped their understandings and subtly taught them the importance of tolerance. Understanding the international perspectives in our own community plays an important role in showing the complexity of personal ethnic or national identities and can be an opportunity for learning and for interesting conversations. In a world that is so interconnected, interactions with the international community is arguably inevitable. Understanding our neighbors can help us understand the world today, and how it is changing.

Image by rvacapinta

OP-ED: URGING UCSD TO HELP REFUGEES THROUGH A SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

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By Aisha Subhan
Contributing Writer

*This essay was originally published in The UCSD Guardian and can be viewed here. If you would like to submit a piece to us, then please email us.

Education is a scarce and precious resource — but a vital one. For those in pursuit of a higher education in war-torn areas, the educations of their dreams remain insurmountable. Now, new challenges lie ahead in America.

In light of recent currents events, I first urge the University of California President Janet Napolitano to issue a statement demanding protection for international and refugee students and the repeal of the executive order’s ban on student visas. Further, I urge UC San Diego to establish a scholarship program for promising students who qualify for refugee or political asylum status.

In response to this crisis, UCSD could play a unique, life-saving role. For the university’s benefit, a scholarship program of the like could further UCSD’s mission and future goals.

Within UCSD’s mission lies the following statement: “As a public university, it’s our responsibility to give back to society by educating global citizens, discovering new knowledge, creating new technology, and contributing to our economy.” Providing and assisting for the world’s refugee population, would serve as lasting investments in all of these areas. Such a population would only enrich our society.

UCSD anticipates creating a new environment that will require “critical thinking, emotional intelligence and other key skills that have previously not been emphasized.”

UCSD has a chance, more than ever, to respond, to act and to save lives. These key skills that the university hopes to emphasize can factor into a response to the very crisis mentioned here.

While darkness, destruction and despair currently haunt these nations, one must think critically about the future. The children of these nations, refugees and the internally displaced are the future of this region upon return. Why not assist these children in the building of their foundations? Why not give them an opportunity to prosper and grow? Why not help them so they can help their nations’ heal?

In responding to this crisis, one must also utilize emotional intelligence. Given the certain climate of our world order today, we must sympathize more, open our hearts more widely and imagine being in the shoes of refugees and those seeking asylum. Much of our fellow humanity wishes for escape, hopes to continue to live and aspire just as we do. In displaying who we are, we can choose to respond, to improve lives and to shape a better future for us all.

Because of similar scholarship programs and initiatives like Books not Bombs and the Institute of International Education, several success stories have emerged. Commenting on his experience, Syrian student at University of Evanston and scholarship recipient Walid Hasanato stated, “Life is better when you are genuine, simple, nice and inviting. Life is better when you are human” (Books not Bombs).

Finally, I urge UCSD to absorb this simple sentiment, to make it our own. Life is better when you are human. Life is better when we aid our common humanity. Life is better when we remain committed to all lives. Life is better when we support life.
Because I envision this program to support life itself, I have named the future scholarship program the The LIFE (Learning Initiative for Freedom and Equality) scholarship. It has the power to help us achieve the sentiments stated above: UCSD students and faculty, I urge you to help me in this pursuit.

Photo by United Nations Photo

AMERICAN EDUCATION: THE LIGHT BETWEEN THE AMERICAN WAKING LIFE AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

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By Shahbaz Shaikh
Guest Writer

*Although we are a student-run journal at UCSD, you do not have to be affiliated with UCSD in order to submit a piece to us. If you have written an article that you believe fits the focus of our journal and would like to have it published, we encourage you to send it to us and we’ll publish it if it meets our standards.

 Learning that you are an American, and learning how to be an American, sparsely has the study around it than other archetypal life events humanity is bound to. Though those events are bound to non-Americans as well, it is strictly an American illumination to imbue oneself with the knowledge of being American, and with that belief, to act to secure its emotion in the midst of the vicissitudes and serendipity in fate. To even describe it envelops the speaker in its inextricable link to the true nature of the life experience, and because it only hopes to embolden individuals to grip and harmonize with that feeling, it cannot do anything other than resonate as a major chord in the American community. Far more than acknowledging any of the aspects of one’s own implacable nature as living, is the capacity to be free to search oneself and know them. It is true that the American dream is the silence between the notes of the American working and waking life and the legacy that is left there by the various generations, but with the pluralist understanding of the antagonism to be had in being a practicing American, there is a certain discord that is necessary in arriving at the harmony that we as Americans ought dutifully to fight for and arrive at. Learning that you are an American, today, may be harder to tune into given the levels of chromatic discordance in government. It had been the case for 90% of American children, until the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos to the current president’s cabinet as Secretary of Education, that one of the venues the American social contract mandated that our leaders would maintain for them – public schools, there to assure the education of a student so that they can hone their capacity to learn for themselves, their society, and their capacity to engage in the economic affairs of their community, and those schools’ government interactions and internal structures designed to aid in understanding those schools’ processes and results in order to improve itself – was sure to be fundamental to America’s ongoing communal effort to educate its youth to live well as a nation. Teaching the youth about the fundamentals of living as an American made public schools into a bastion of American culture, and a venue for cementing the legacy of American progress. Today, public schools are less likely to be the venue for that American communal effort. Instead, the American government’s leadership suggests it is more apt to pursue bolstering a family’s capacity to choose where and how to educate their children, also known as school choice. School choice is the name given to the voucher program wherein instead of federal funding given to states to support their public schools in any way, that monies is instead distributed to individual families in states for them to choose to spend on anything having to do with education.

The reason why this transition from the general support of public schools to the support of school choice is being made is because the latter education policy is more aligned with Conservative political ideology of today’s leadership in America. This policy action manifested from adherence to a facet of the conservative ideology that espouses a belief in freedom and free markets being the key to true efficiency and fair outcomes. To conservatives, freedom and free markets are primary after the assurance of acting within the purview of what have historically been said as Judeo-Christian values but which can also be said in secular terms. Conservatism espouses an emphasis on self-reliance. It entails the use of government as a tool to assure an adamant proscription against the obligation of some to others in any manner that intercedes in the individual’s right to the product of their labor, as well as against social legislation that would either support or not deny a systemic right to anything contrary to Conservative moral values. A major structure of an ideal conservative government and society is to use the government purely to assure an incapacity in its people to act in ways that are contrary to what people ought to practice in their private domains and of their own accord by proscribing them whenever possible. All duties Conservatives believe ought to come from government prescription – those having to do with the support of free enterprise, a fair structuring of the court system, and public defense – are some of the few prescriptive actions conservatives deem fit for it to take. From this it should be easy to conclude that prescribing an education policy, thematically aligned with conservative beliefs which when typically applied only normally justify a proscription of action, is difficult without risking contradicting those beliefs. The antithesis of conservatism that is found in wasting money, plausibly abusable government oversight, and the denigration of the individual right to maintain their culture, are implicit in Secretary of Education DeVos’ theory of school choice policy and its previous and current manifestations as policy action in the states and as legislation in Congress.

What I posit is this – it is a bad government practice and immoral to structure school choice similar to any of its previous manifestations. This policy will kill the American dream for many, make the American waking life a strictly austere aural ongoing, and turn being an American into an isolated acknowledgement and not a communal bulwark of the nation’s culture. Subjecting American education to the free market presupposes that the profit motive can and always has aligned itself with the social welfare of the communities schools work in. In reality market conditions can manifest to make schools worse than today. To trust the free market with our children is an abnegation of any responsibility of the federal government to assure equitable treatment of individuals, and especially children, in this country. Given the high correlation between an American’s economic well-being and their education, and further, with their financial well-being and that of their community’s, the highly effective customer segmentation metrics of today can accurately project lower cost schools in lower income neighborhoods, predicting the conscription of students to a low-end school. Despite that outcome being acceptable to the conservative ideology given its emphasis on self-reliance and a subsequent acceptance of consequences, the predictability of that outcome likens the actualization of this policy to an intent to produce that outcome. Far more than growing pains or some equivocation with a frictional unemployment, the years of wasted education due to poorly structured and unregulated charter schools will severely impact the likelihood that these students will be capable adults. Conservative ideologies are undone by active deprecation of young students with government policy. With only proscription as a means to assure the American identity, on issues of the social and moral fabric alone, the support of school choice that historically cannot be said to have been conducted with sufficient measures of accountability lends credence to the claim that this policy is an active bolstering of crime and wastefulness. Conservatism acknowledges an archetypal presence of evil as a fundamental principle in supporting excellent public defense, but this Congress’ school choice policy fails to employ this same frame of mind when it ignores the innate capacity for greed and the possibility of abusive local programs, a common theme noticeable in each of the times this policy was tried by state governments . Another motivation for this policy is that government spending on schools has increased by 117% in the past 40 years with test scores remaining flat, but such a claim echoes the optimistic projections about the schools touted by proponents of this policy while at the same time proffering no capacity to maintain accountability differently than this policy’s prior failed manifestations, the latter criticism being especially true as per rhetoric in Secretary DeVos’ confirmation hearing wherein she declined to assure Congress about the existence and maintenance of accountability standards, stating only that she will measure them by the metric of a policy that has yet to be defined. Any inference to follow from the acknowledgement of the conservative ideals and free market principles that frame this policy might include a belief that accountability in education is best determined by these burgeoning corporate schools and resultantly elicit a further abnegation of responsibility of the American federal government to assure a culture and community by supporting public schools.

It is true that freedom is rung as the primary chord in the American identity, but with an increasing polarization of communities – in leadership, political ideologies, the voting booths and in gerrymandered districts – all paths that America can take that emphasize freedom only for freedom’s sake and not for the good of the nation should be treated with great skepticism. This metric for judging an expansion of freedom is of utmost importance when assessing claims about how to support the children of the nation. They are who bear the burden of bettering the community as time goes on. If the government is only a group of people, and all communities seek to leave behind a legacy for their children as well as their peers’ children, then why is the government not where individuals can make that dream a reality? Why does that circle of obligation not extend to the shared national identity? I acknowledge that it does not have to. People are more than encumbered by their immediate obligations and responsibilities. However, if people cannot aspire to raise the ground floor for everyone, then every fundamental American principle that was supposed to have followed from securing the blessings of liberty unto ourselves will be subverted by this mindless adherence to principle. The union will be less perfect, as schools will be structurally separate and unequal. Justice for people in lower income communities will be further stymied by their lack of access to the wealth necessary to assure an excellent education. Domestic tranquility will be undone by the unregulated scholastic establishments borne out of this policy. And while the common defense will continue to be supported by volunteers to the army like the ones from Michigan, it should be noted that those individuals oftentimes only volunteer because that is their only path to putting themselves in a part of the country with better general welfare than where they are from. Unaccountable, free-market based school choice will condemn many Americans to never living the American dream.