Monday, September 20, 2010

Joining an APA group on campus by Janani Ramachandran, Vice Chair of Development

Why join an “Asian” group? I don’t want to be pigeon-holed or labeled… and I mean, I’m not even that “Asian”…. Arriving at Penn my freshman year, these thoughts ran through my mind. But, after an eye-opening APALI retreat, and meeting some wonderful friends who were passionate about APA issues, I was pulled into being active in Penn’s APA community and it has been one of the most rewarding parts of my college experience.

I realized that involving myself in an APA group, and learning about the culture and the issues which its members share didn’t prevent me from enjoying friendships and experiences outside the Asian community. In fact, I found that by better understanding my own culture and being able to appreciate the cultures of others, I didn’t become more stereotypically “Asian”, but that I became more aware of what made me proud to be “American”. I learned to appreciate all the values and freedoms that this country gives us, and respect the opportunities it afforded to our parents and grandparents.

Sharing a piece of tradition with my friends, whether it was doing a traditional Filipino dance, singing in the traditional Karnatic Indian style, or eating mooncakes and mochi was fun! And, through talking to friends about their experiences going to Chinese school, how it was growing up in a town where nobody was Asian, and how they struggled to identify themselves, I discovered a lot about how my own traditions and experiences shape my outlook on life.

Joining an APA group on campus is an opportunity to learn and grow, regardless of your ethnic background or origin. It’s a way to express yourself and rejoice with others as they express themselves. For me, it was a way to rise above ethnicity and background and appreciate the common ties between several cultures. Understanding your origin and being proud of who you are is a big part of being comfortable with yourself. And, being involved in the APA community has really given me that…. Not to mention it opened my eyes to a ton of delicious food… which is always a plus!

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