TCK Project #4 – Lily

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What do you usually say if someone asks you where you’re from?

Singapore! Having grown up here for 18 years it’s where I’ve made most of my childhood memories so it’s only natural to call myself Singaporean.

What different cultures are you “made up of”?

American, Australian, Chinese, Singaporean

How has that impacted your education/career? 

Depends on who I talk to – It’s very much the opposite for me. My education and career were what has allowed me to meet people from different cultures and brought me to different countries all over the world. Since young, I was sent off to boarding school every other summer. I bounced around between Australia and China most of the time where I usually attend intensive language school classes. It was really uncomfortable in the beginning cause I never fit in with the kids of either countries – to them I just wasn’t Chinese enough nor Australian enough. Communicating was hard even though I spoke both languages – I didn’t sound like them or spoke as fluently as they did. But I eventually got over these hurdles and was able to assimilate into my respective boarding schools, through changing the way I spoke to adopt their accents and their lingo.

Then during high school, a similar thing happened where I got pulled out of local school in the middle of Sec 4 and transferred to an international school for 2 years. This was another rather difficult transition period for me as high school teenagers were much more unforgiving and unfriendly. Again, I had to go through the whole process of changing the way I spoke, acted and presented myself in front of my classmates. At first I was worried this would change me a lot and I did feel uncomfortable and unhappy at one point but after finding a group of friends who were going through the same in-between experiences as me, it made me feel a lot better.

All of these combined experiences did, however, help me assimilate a lot better when I went off to America for college.

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Have you ever felt the “need” to fight racism? Or counter ignorant statements about different cultures?

Yes and no. I’ve haven’t really experienced outright racism and neither am I a really vocal person about racism but I do experience racially-charged micro-aggressions from time to time, and that’s something I’ll be vocal about if it angers me personally. For example, it’s commonplace for people to hate on Chinese nationals because of the different way they talk and act, and this is especially so in foreign countries. The most frequent display of this takes form of shunning the “unruly, rude Chinese tourist”, and it bothers me when someone speaks ill of “Chinese tourists” or treats us differently out of biasness and presumptions about my race. Having been brought up with strong Chinese heritage and roots, this stereotype is extremely harmful and hurtful, especially when I see my family being treated poorly while travelling abroad on holiday. I’ve seen both my mom and dad having to speak up against waiters and customer service reps for overlooking service towards us on certain occasions, and I’ve had to verbally tell people off for using racial slurs or making racial jokes towards my Asian friends and I when we travel in groups.

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What country is “home” to you currently and why?

Now it’s pretty split between LA and Singapore. A huge part of my identity is split between these two countries and I have a strong longing for LA because the city is just so exciting and new to me, and with a large portion of my college friends still working and living in LA it’s a no-brainer to want to be back in LA. With Singapore, it reminds me a lot of my childhood and the nostalgia associated with the country is what makes it my other home.

Which TCK are you?

Somewhere between (1) “A TCK who fits the system” & (2) “A TCK who doesn’t fit the system but attempts to conform” . Attempting to conform (2) definitely relates strongly to the first half of my life, growing up between China, Australia and Singapore, and also through high school. Whereas I’ve morphed into a full (1) after years of fully assimilating into a multi-cultural individual. It’s almost like I have an on and off switch – I act differently and speak different in different setting, countries, and around different people. I blend so well into crowds that I feel like I can fit in anywhere now!

Do you picture yourself settling in a specific country? Why?

Yes, probably LA or London. I feel a strong connection to LA and in my head it’s always like a dream land for me. I’d love to go back if I could and settle down there. London will be my second choice just because my best friend is there. It’s always been part of our life plan to just live with each other for about a year or and fully experience life and growing up as adults together.

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