This is part of our #MyAsianIdentity series. Stay tuned to the Kollaboration SF blog for more articles about API identity!
Written by: Kathleen H.
My identity as a first generation Asian American is probably similar to most. My parents immigrated to California from Taiwan to seek better job opportunities and attain a higher standard of living. To this day, I’m inspired at how they were courageous enough to leave the small island they grew up on and move to a country they had never been to before. They didn’t know many people in the United States and knew little English from their education in Taiwan.
I never spoke with my parents about how their big move to the United States impacted their ethnic identity but I know it was definitely not easy for them to assimilate to a completely different culture, one with its own language, history and traditions. I attribute the opportunities I have to their perseverance and sacrifices, along with the high value they hold for education and diligence.
Like many immigrant parents, my parents wanted me to keep my Asian heritage. In an effort to give me a deeper understanding of the Chinese and Taiwanese culture, my parents sent me to Chinese school when I was in kindergarten. There, I became proficient at reading and writing Chinese and gained an understanding about traditional customs.
As I grew older, I realized many of my peers grew disinterested in learning about their heritage and identified more closely with being American. Most of my peers disliked going to class and neglected speaking Mandarin with their parents. Eventually, everyone made an implicit agreement that homework and class attendance was optional. Gradually, the number of students dwindled —my graduating class consisted of myself and five other people. Although I often skipped class in high school, I enjoyed going and learning more about my cultural identity.
Recently, someone at college asked me, “So, where are you from?” I replied, “My parents are from Taiwan”. I always told others I was from Sunnyvale, California, when asked the question before. In that moment, I had forgotten he was inquiring about my hometown and I was embarrassed by my unusual response.
However, looking back, I think I answered the question well. That was a moment of clarity for me, as I realized I should not be ashamed of my heritage but proud of it. I’ve realized the importance of sharing and embracing my identity as an Asian American, so that the hard work and sacrifices of my parents will not be wasted.
Kathleen is the PR/Communications Associate at Kollaboration SF and a Bay Area native from Sunnyvale. She is currently a student at UC Berkeley. Some of her hobbies include listening to music (by API artists, of course), hiking, cooking, product design, and going on spontaneous adventures. She is passionate about the social sector and encouraging other Asian-Americans to share their unique perspectives and aspirations with the API community!