Our interviewee, a 17 year old from suburban New Jersey, would like to remain anonymous. He shared a conversation with us about the ups and downs of his very recent immigration to the U.S. from India.
Jordan: So… hello, how are you doing?
Anon: I'm good, how are you?
Jordan: I'm good, thank you. So today, I just want to ask a few questions about your Asian American experience and specifically, growing up, and what does it mean to you to be an Asian American. So I know that you moved here from India in 10th grade, so if you want to just detail on that a little bit…?
Anon: Yeah, so I was born in India and I moved to the United States in 2019. [My grandparents are] citizens here and have been living here for like 17 years. And... so they sponsored over immigration, and we moved here, basically for education purposes for my higher education. That was the main reason we moved here.
Jordan: I see! So. I presume like... in your mind and I guess your parents’ mind too, you saw America as this like, nexus of opportunity and just better resources, perhaps?
Anon: Yeah. Yeah, so, yeah.[The higher education here in America] is very good. So like, that was obviously the main factor for us moving here.
Jordan: Even before moving here, besides, you know like, the higher education aspect of it, what did you think of America, what was your preconception of it?
Anon: So usually, I was exposed to America through movies and TV and everything. So, it was like just the over-romanticized version of America, like going to school, being the most famous person in the school and there was, there was this the conception I had [of] what schools were like. [I also had] the conception that America was very diverse, and it's a big country, It has a great amount of people.
Jordan: Oh yeah, America is pretty big but not as big as like India, let's say. How did you feel when coming to America? Were you excited, were you a little bit apprehensive?
Anon: It was both of [those feelings]. So I was excited to have a new system, new culture, new language, new... new life basically. But at the same time, I was kinda nervous, and it was kind of [wasn’t good] leaving my friends and memories, because I was born there. So all of my friends and my family's there. And like the place where you grow is like... you have some deep connection with it because like, you spent all of your time there. So it was also a sad moment to like, leave that place. But, I was also excited for the new opportunities I might have in the new country.
Jordan: Oh yeah, there's always some sort of excitement about going somewhere new, but I can always imagine it is quite nostalgic to literally leave your childhood, in a sense.
Anon: Yeah definitely. Like, if I see some pictures or something, it's so nostalgic.
Jordan: I can only imagine! What was the biggest culture shock that you experienced when first coming here?
Anon: Let's see... the language of course was the main one. It's a cultural thing with language, because I know English, but the American English is a little different, and the accent makes it hard, because I don't have the same accent as you guys do. So that's a big one. The other thing would be the individualism aspect. So in India, it's more of a social culture so all the societies are very close together. Your neighbors, like, give food to you, you give them food whenever you prepare something special. You also talk with your neighbors often. Here it's very less like, it's very limited here. You only see your neighbors whenever you see them, it's rare occasions and it's just “Hi, how are you?” whenever you get out of your house. In India, you can see neighbors, children playing outside, you can see cows, dogs, street dogs, so like it's a different thing. [America’s society is] more isolated in some sense.
Jordan: Yeah, I can totally understand that. I mean, for like individualism, there's more of a sense of like... we keep to ourselves, unless we need something from you, rather than being collaborative like the close knit cultures of countries like India….Since coming here, have you experienced any microaggressions or any blatant racism for being Asian?
Anon: I don't think I have... I don't think I have faced anything like that. Everyone has been good to me in the school and everyone has been helpful towards me since they understand my situation.
Jordan: Well, that's good. That's really good, yeah. What is your favorite thing about being in America?
Anon: I would say it's the art, if that makes sense. Like, the extracurriculars. In schools here, extracurriculars are given a lot of importance, the schools do promote extracurricular activities like music and everything. There are many opportunities for you to find something that you like. So, if you want, if you're good at jazz, you can join jazz band. If you want to do debate, you can go to the forensics club, or if you just want to hang out with people you like and talk about books you can just join the book club select. There are many opportunities for things you can do.
Jordan: In India, was it a little bit more restricted as to the things you can pursue outside of academics?
Anon: So, in India, it's mostly about sports. Sports is a big thing there, so many people have played sports. I used to play badminton competitively, and it was a big part of my life. After school, it was like six hours of training every day. There’s also not many clubs in schools, per se. Many people go to private schools in India because the common schools are not very good. For example, at the private school I went to, we just had the photography club and I think it was the only club there. So, there aren’t a lot of such clubs in schools, if you know what I mean. I also lived in a small city, so it makes sense [that my school didn’t have a lot of clubs].
Jordan: Yeah, that makes sense. I'm glad you like all the opportunities that America offers. This is a little bit of a... more grave question, I suppose, but, you know, in light of what happened in the last few months, especially in Atlanta and everything else surrounding COVID, how do you feel about your Asian-American identity?
Anon: I have some fear inside of me that me or someone I know might be attacked. There's kind of a growing fear that someone I know might be hurt because of their race, and like, it's just sad that people are doing that just because of someone's race.
Jordan: That's totally understandable. I mean, do you think that's impacted how you feel as an Asian American and how you view your identity?
Anon: Yeah, I have more respect for people of my culture and Asian American people in general. I also feel more sympathy for them and I want to change things so we don’t have to face these sorts of things anymore.
Jordan: I really like that response! Ok, last question for you. I know we've we kind of answered this in the last question, but, all in all, what does it mean to you to be Asian-American, and what do you think (if you can predict) how do you think your views on your Asian identity may change over time?
Anon: I'm very proud to call myself an Asian-American, and I’m proud of the culture. All the Asian countries have similar cultures and it's just a very proud feeling that I get when I think that I'm part of the same kind of culture.
Jordan: Thank you for taking the time to respond to this. I think your answers were very well thought out, so…
Anon: Thank you for having me.
Jordan: No problem.