“After graduation I’m going to education grad school. But what I’ve noticed lately is that the exchange on this topic often goes like this: someone asks me where I’m headed after graduation and I reply, ‘education grad school’ and they ask where, and I say, ‘Harvard’ – it’s only after ‘Harvard’ that they say congratulations. And this has been common for me my entire life. I went to a magnet high school and people often comment, ‘wow you must be smart’, impressed by the prestige more than anything else. Growing up I’ve had a different experience from other Asians, most likely because my dad resented the spartan household he grew up in. Asians crumble under the weight of parental pressure, and expectations to make the most money or be a doctor or lawyer are commonplace. But my parents and I had a ‘secret’, and whenever other parents would ask my parents what they did to foster my success, my mom would tell them, ‘Let them be themselves and everything else will work itself out.’ The ‘secret’ wasn’t something that nobody knew but something that nobody believed. Because most of my high school was Asian, it wasn’t until I got to Amherst that I realized how toxic and painful a preordained Asian identity could be. Being Korean, my not attending KSA is automatically construed as a rejection of Korean culture, as something along the lines of me ‘hating Koreans’ (which is obviously not true). Similarly, I’m thought to be a math major because I’m Asian, not because I genuinely enjoy math. Because I’m Asian nobody cares if I go to Harvard – it’s not an accomplishment but a fulfillment of my identity. So each time after someone asks me about my post-graduation plans, I force myself to be happy with it. It’s not a feather in my cap but something great for my development, and whenever I tell someone this I need to go through an internal monologue with myself. I’m proud of going to education grad school, not Harvard. And whenever someone robs me of that I need to remind myself of this, otherwise it would crush me.”

Eddie Kim, Amherst

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