ROCHELLE, age 28

I went through middle school and highschool having very few close friends who were also Chinese American. It wasn't because my school didn't have any other Asians, it just so happened that I didn't connect with a lot of them. And it really wasn't a big deal. We all grew up in the diversity of the Bay Area and our different cultural upbringings were understood.

It was peculiar to me that when I moved to St Louis for college, the majority of the students who randomly walked up to me to introduce themselves were other Asian students. Some of them asked me to join their student groups which I did because at my highschool, the Asian student club was an excuse to celebrate Asian traditions and eat great food.

After several months of inviting my friends outside of the Asian student groups to our events, one of my Asian friends asked me why I hung out with so many white people. I wasn't quite sure how to respond but I knew that I no longer wanted to associate myself with a group of people who were self- segregating themselves.

From then on out, I would often receive comments from other people in college about how I wasn't like other Asians. I took that to mean that I wasn't an Asian who only hung out with other Asians and I didn't spend all my time studying in the library.

After college, I spent three years living and traveling in Asia. During that time I met many European, Australian, and South American travelers who told me that I was not like any of the other Americans they had ever met. One English traveler I met even went as far as saying that he was dismissive about getting to know me when we first met because he assumed I'd be obnoxious, but was pleasantly surprised when I turned out to be different.

I've learned to move on from feeling frustrated about being stereotyped based on perceived cultural identities. I can't really control or change the experiences that people have had in the past that have lead them to have their cultural prejudices. What I can influence is the experience that they have with me and hopefully by just being confident in who I am as an individual I can start to break down their stereotypes.




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