This is a user submission to IRL. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of IRL or its affiliates.
The international student experience only gets as colorful as you allow it.
Having straight and mostly black hair, rough skin and small eyes, I give off a very strong aura that reminds passersby of the people back at home.
I look incredibly Chinese for a Chinese-Malaysian.
There’s no subtlety of genes from others of a different color, no signs of being mixed.
When I walk, I attract a lot of eyes on me. A lot of those gazes are from the Chinese.
It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but not to an extent where I would be annoyed.
Most of the time, the people who do look are usually walking alone, like me.
I think maybe they miss home, maybe they want something to remind them of where they come from or the faces they grew up with.
If I, a stranger can do that, remind them of their roots, I’d actually be happy to let them watch me walk to get coffee or to the gym.
We Asians tend to stick to each other when abroad.
Us Asians, I don’t know if you noticed but we stick together unconsciously when we’re away from home.
Maybe it’s an automated response for any group of people who behave in a certain culturally specified way.
Maybe we feel safe knowing there are people like us, around us. In crowds, we stick to the person who reminds you the most of home.
Because home is a safe place and a reminder of how it felt being covered and sheltered is a good thing to keep near you.
But comfort zones are restrictions disguised.
It’s a barrier to connecting with other humans. It’s a refusal of acknowledgment of another. It’s belittlement without expressing it or holding someone with unreasonable high esteem.
People raised from different places view things very differently from you, even though they may have gone through the exact same experience as you.
If you think whiteness is often associated with qualities like being overly loud or extroverted, you fail to see the other side of the castle.
Some of the most reflective people I’ve met were not Asians.
Part of it is because they were brave enough to challenge what was around them, courageous enough to hold an opposing view.
We Asians tend to stick to rules because we think it’s what’s best for us.
That makes us very orderly and systematic, but there’s a high chance that our spring of life might be drier than the other side of the world.
We fail to realize that the air we breathe in is the same dry exhaled air from others.
Each time the cycle repeats, the atmosphere diminishes in life and animation.
Acceptance of another does not depend on where you’re from.
Such a general statement feels so unambiguous and universally agreeable, yet why is it that we have a fear of not living up to another or not feeling accepted with another group of color?
Throughout my life, my relationships were characterized as being not very casual. They were usually quite intense, with a lot packed in one moment.
The criteria for these bonds to happen is a very simple but tiring basis of consistency and understanding of values, whether secular or religious.
Especially worldly interests, these things do not necessarily tie in with someone’s origins, not all the time.
Compatibility works with a silent nod of affirmation, followed by reaffirmation, and reaffirmation again, and again… Consistency.
Their nationalities did not stop these nice people from befriending me, it encourages me to do the same too.
I hope everyone strives to see a person for the individual they are.
I’ve always seen people and remembered them for who they are.
Part of it has to be where they come from, I cannot deny what the eye captures and what stereotypes dictate.
But I’m very grateful that that part of identifying someone holds no dominance over other factors that help me remember someone.
Also, with the people that I attract, it feels very natural to judge them by them and nothing else.
Interesting people don’t need their skin, eyes or blemishes to tell you what kind of person they are.
I hope one day, everyone strives to see a person for the individual they are.
To do that, I believe there are significant boundaries created not technically by us, but decades of history and turmoil that needed to be validated and overcome.
Visible and invisible.