Drishti Gangwani

I grew up in Hong Kong. Bumping shoulders with skin color that couldn’t be further from mine. But my mind was conditioned to believe that this was nothing out of the ordinary. I mentally became indifferent to the idea of race being a barrier almost. Ironically the one place I began to feel the pinch of darkness, was in high school, An international high school, as they liked to call themselves. The oldest one in Hong Kong in fact.I wasn’t very good a following rules. I didn’t understand why people had to act a certain way, dress a certain way, or speak a certain way to be taken seriously. As time went on and my frustrations to fit the mold grew. I began to distract myself with books, and before I knew it, I fell in love with literature. Stories about different people in different times, characters that were celebrated for being different and that’s what made them “interesting.” And I quickly realized: that’s what it takes to be written about. Being different. However as a excelled in the subject within the confines of the classroom, I began to see push back regarding my opinion from my professors. Suddenly, they could not take me seriously if I didn’t express how I felt about a book, if I didn’t have the same hair, skirt length, backpack and shoes as the 100 other girls at school. As though my appearance was some sort of distraction, and she couldn’t focus on the words that came out of my mouth because of the way I looked. If the devil is in the details, then my professor unfortunately couldn’t help but counteract my opinions because she so often assumed they must be incorrect. I dressed and looked incorrect after all, so my notions of course must fall into the same stereotype. I was Indian, what did I know about English classics, and how could I possibly understand William Blake better than the blonde hair, blue eyed girl with a British accent who used spark notes instead of actually reading the book.

                    When I moved to New York, the battle was different all together. Race was a prominent part of this society. And so was fighting it. In Hong Kong I only struggled within school halls. But here? I was constantly asked where I was from, and then where was I really from. As though Hong Kong just was not a viable option due to the color of my skin. People were fascinated but this “third-cultured” nature of my life. I was constantly asked to use it as an asset. As though it was some sort of trophy. Anytime I met someone new I was asked to lead with that, as though my thoughts and mind meant nothing. It was all about that exterior being misleading of my background and experiences. It’s reached its point of exhaustion as far as I’m concerned. But then again, that’s what makes me “Interesting.”

I was born in Knoxville, TN in 1997. From there, I moved to Missouri, Indiana, then finally Thousand Oaks, California at the age of 8. During all that time, I frequented Beijing, China at least once or twice a year for up to three months at a time. I moved around a lot due to both my father’s career in pharmaceuticals as well as his penchant for other women, which rightfully so infuriated my mother.

By the time I was in middle school (age 12), my father had accepted a role in a pharmaceutical company that gave him an expansive territory. From there and on, he would never be home consistently, if not ever. In middle school all the way until sophomore year of high school (age 16), he would maybe come home a day or two every week. By sophomore year, he had accepted a job in Shanghai. I had the option of either going to Shanghai American School or continuing my HS career in Oak Park, California. I chose the latter. However, the rest of HS I did spend travelling back and forth between Beijing, Shanghai, and California.

After HS I went off to NYU. I have resided in NYC, specifically the East Village, since 2016. Even though I live in NYC, I still identify as from Thousand Oaks, California. I don’t claim my current home to be anywhere else, though when people ask me where I am from, I do feel the urge to mention the other states as well as Beijing and Shanghai because they shaped and formed so many of my experiences and characteristics. New York City, even though it is the most recent stage in my life, hasn’t impacted me the way my other locations has. It lacks the feeling of home that those other cities have all at one point given me.

Currently I study Public Health and Biology. In the future I would like to pursue a Masters in Health Policy and then join the Airforce to become a Combat Rescue Officer.

“I was born and raised in Hong Kong, when I was 16. I went to boarding school in the UK and I am currently going to university in New York. Although I am from Hong Kong, being foreign looking never made me fit in with the crowd. I think being in New York actually made me feel like I belong and I didn’t have to explain where I’m from and why I look the way I do.

I do struggle sometimes when Americans tell me they think Hong Kong is in Japan. The ignorance is frustrating however New York is so diverse that it makes me feel included in this rich culture that the city has to offer.”

“I associate myself as an American because I have always been an American citizen since I was born in the suburbs of Chicago, USA. Until recently, I have always considered Chicago as my hometown because I lived there from when I was born until I was 10 years old. However, I realize that I no longer truly resemble Chicago because I do not understand the culture as a chicagoan anymore. I moved to Hong Kong and lived there for three years. I was truly culture shocked, because Hong Kong, unlike the suburbs of Chicago, was always busy and very loud. It was abnormal coming from a quiet neighborhood. However, it was somewhat familiar because part of my family was from Hong Kong (I’m a dual citizen) and I visited Hong Kong and Shanghai almost every summer as a child. Though I saw myself like every one else, with the same skin color and speaking the same language), I often thought of myself feeling different because of the different ideals I had when raised in a western culture as a child. I then moved to Beijing, which was just as different from moving to different countries because of the culture and language. Though I had no trouble speaking all three languages (English, Cantonese, Mandarin) since my family is trilingual, nonetheless I felt foreign because of the new exposure to a new society.

Beijing has a very long and historical presence and everyone there is very traditionally Chinese. There were a lot of cultural normalities that were quite different from a diverse city like Hong Kong, which we had to be careful not to be accidentally rude to a local. I then moved to Shanghai, which was probably the easiest transition of the four places because I have already gotten so used to adapting and because Shanghai’s culture is not that different from Beijing or Hong Kong, its’ diversity and historical presence, except for some landmarks and people speaking another dialect, Shanghainese, which was not as foreign for me because my grandparents spoke it with my mother. Also, Shanghai is currently where my parents reside and thus going back “home” means going back to Shanghai. It’s a comforting place to me now. I am currently studying in New York for college. Though New York is just as diverse as the other cities I’ve lived in, it is much more liberal than any asian city, thus I am also learning to adapt to many things such as the vocalized protests on the streets, same sex rights, and my first time hearing pronouns as a very important thing in the American society. Because I have been living in China for so long and the people’s viewpoints on political and social norms are so different and conservative compared to the American way, I myself have been shocked that even as an American, I do not know many things that are culturally accepted or unaccepted in New York. Thus I also had some culture shock in moving from one country to another.

“Well … just by looking at me people assume that I’m from California or New York City, but I’m actually from the South. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. Now, I’ve never grew up in downtown Atlanta, well I technically live within the metropolitan area, but imma let that slide and say I’m from Atlanta. A lot of people that I went to grade school with all tend to stay within state for school because it’s cheaper, closer to home, and everyone we all know is in state. Everyone who stays doesn’t really expand out there bubble and because of that is the reason why I came to Parsons. I believed that NYC was city where I could figure out who I was as a person, an artist, a daughter, as a sister, and have a start fresh in life, and the school provided what I “thought” the education I needed to be as a graphic designer.

I identify as a Straight Southern First Generation Chinese American. I know that’s really specific but it’s true. I feel like with my identity especially my race and where I grew up, I could validate how America’s conception of the South is twisted and how Asian people shouldn’t be casted out of “minorities”. Even saying all of this, I still feel like I don’t have a saying in our society. Asian Americans aren’t depicted correctly at all in media today. We’re never known to have incidences of an Asian person committing any crime, never known that not all Asians are valedictorians, we’re all not super rich, we’re all not skinny sticks, we’re not all bad drivers, and I could continue on with more stereotypes, but we would be sitting here for a while. But it makes me mad how there is so much awareness about the American Black/Latino Communities and none for Asians and Native Americans. But the reason why I feel like I can’t speak up in today’s society is that I don’t want people to shit on me, and start claiming that I have all these privileges and that we’re not an issue with any other communities in the States. But how do people know about the Asian American Community if none of us can speak up?

Growing up in the South, I really never had an issue with people racially discriminating me and my community in particular. I was blessed to go to one of the few progressive school systems in the state and everyone was treated equally as a person and not for their race. Yes, some parts of the South aren’t as lucky to have such awareness of equality of people. Yes, there are places where I wouldn’t go as an Asian person, but that’s no different then going bum fuck no where in the middle of any state. Yes, that there are people that depict what the “Southern” lifestyle is,but that’s the issue with the education system here in America. Without education, we all grow up having this notion of a certain area being a particular way, but that has to change unless we want “peace” with all the different communities living here. Really the only issue with Asians in America is how we’re depicted in media.

Growing up I never had that Asian figure to look up too not like big influencers such as Donald Glover, Ellen DeGeneres, and Beyonce. I was always drawn to shows/movies that had Asian people in it such as Charlie Angels, Dragon Tales, and Jackie Chan movies. Now I don’t really watch platforms such as Netflix or Hulu, I gravitate to YouTube, because that is the platform where Asian Americans now are spreading awareness about our community such as JKFlims and CantoMando ( who I have been watching since I was in middle school). I believe this is the time where the Asian American community needs to bring awareness that we do exist in America. We have history with this country, We have the power to be like other communities to bring awareness. I think it’s time and now with all the social justices issues going on we can make a change for the better and for future generations to come.”

“I was born in Sydney, Australia. I'm from a little suburb called Thornleigh, where I was one out of a handful of Asians. Surrounded by white culture at school and Asian culture at home, I struggled often with where I belonged. I consider myself Australian in many ways but once I moved to Hong Kong at the age of 12, my sense of identity became skewed. I grew up speaking Cantonese with my grandparents so when we moved to Hong Kong I was able to blend in a little bit but to everyone there I stuck out like a sore thumb. I dressed different, I acted different, I sounded different. I became suspended in this limbo of being too white to be Asian and too Asian to be white. Upon moving to New York, I've met a lot more people like myself who have this duality within them, prompting me to be more confident in telling my story. Because the first thing people hear is my accent here, they identify me as Australian first, and consequently it reinforces my own sense of Australian identity. However, I haven't experienced being in a Chinese diaspora since living in Australia some 10 years ago, so going to places like Chinatown or Flushing reinforce that part of my identity too. Something as simple as speaking Cantonese to the servers at restaurants, or meeting another Australian in an Uber pool, makes me cherish my dual cultural identities more, because here I am part of two diasporas.”

I was born in Shenzhen, a southern city in China, and raised in both Shenzhen and Hong Kong which are two cities right next to each other for almost 18 years till I came to the U.S for college. Even though I lived in both cities, Shenzhen always felt more like my home growing up, mainly because I never went to school in Hong Kong. Coming to the U.S for college was one of the most important decision that my family has ever made, because it not only affected my view to the world greatly, but also changed my whole family’s lifestyle.

I’m always aware when people have biased view. A lot of the Chinese students have a belief, that whatever we do and whatever we say are affecting people’s views on not only Chinese students, but China, and I’m one of them. Dealing with stereotypical opinions are hard. We all know about China more or less, but how do we answer questions as Chinese students, and try to clear people’s biased view, while not ignoring the problem? It’s the hardest thing to do. When people ask different things about China, for example, the internet censorship, which is one of the most frequently asked questions, I had to be cautions with what I say, which is tiring and has made me very sensitive. I feel as if I might need to tell the whole contemporary Chinese history in order to answer that one question, and I’m always thinking about whether or not what I just said deepened people’s stereotypical opinions? Do they think of us as people waiting for liberation? Did I explained the situation of China clear enough?

我叫陈彦廷,97年12月3日生。家在上海,祖籍温州。现在住在纽约Long Island City 因为我在纽约上学。高中两年待在英国威尔士的一个小村里念书。虽然我时常想念家和家人,但我更喜欢在外面游历,结交朋友。在纽约两年了,我的适应能力还算不错,我知道自己喜欢吃的餐厅都在哪,认识了蛮多好朋友可以一起玩一起做事或者聊天,也从不强求。这样的纽约时晴时雨,下雪刮风多云艳阳,跟樱子在一起的纽约,怎么样都好。或许我来说这就像一个家了。我会说我要回纽约了,我会说我在回家的路上。

“My name is Yanting Chen. I was born in 1997, on the 3rd of December. My family lives in Shanghai yet originally we are from Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. I now live in Long Island City, New York as I go to college here. For my two years of High School I spent my life in a small village in Wales, UK. Although I miss my family really often, I truly prefer being away in an environment I found interesting and make friends. I now have lived in New York for two years. My adaptation capability is relatively high. Now in New York I am entirely aware of where I should go eat. I have friends who can do very different things with me. Whether it rains or not, In this lovely relationship with Yingzi, this version of New York now becomes my sweet home. I would always say oh I’m going back to New York. “

Copyright © All rights reserved.
Using Format