In my assignment requirements, I was required to have a conversion with my school roommate with whom I board with at the school hostels. My roommate hails from the smaller states of southern India. Due to his hard work and academic excellence, he won a scholarship to come and continue his high school education level in the United States. It has been two years now since he joined, and every summer holiday break he is given a chance to go back home in India to visit his folks, and then boards a plane back to the United States to proceed with his studies. He has a fairly dark skin complexion, curly hair, and a little bit shorter than me. The interesting thing about my roommate is that even with two years interaction with the United States culture, there is little about him that has changed other than his English that keeps improving by the day. However, his manner of speech, dressing, and all manner of behaviors are still Indian.
I got to know him much better as I kept asking him questions. At some point, I asked him how his first day at the school was. This question was rather a common one to everyone who just joined this school, but this time round I got some very interesting response. According to my roommate, unlike the common belief where people dread their first days at new schools, his was rather interesting. He had always wished he would get a chance to have quality education like the one he sees his wealthier upper-class countrymen get. He had an innately borne interest of education that had always kept him glued to literal texts. Consequently, this saw him pass his O-levels in the Indian system. By luck, he was awarded a scholarship and here he was, living his educational dream.
However, as days went on, things rather took a twisted turn and took a sour path. His English was not fluent, and his communication ability at school was hardened. The few other Indians that were in the school at the time tended to isolate themselves from him. They were born and raised in the United States, thus, they really knew much less about the Indian culture or language. Furthermore, they found my roommate rather weird to hold onto some Indian cultures like his prayer sessions and did not want much to associate with him.
To add salt to this sore, some students started bullying him; calling him names or even at times making fun of his troubled English speech. All these wore him to some extent, and he started wishing he would just quit this school, drop the scholarship, and go back home where he felt more comfortable and appreciated. I got curious as to what changed his mind and why he had not left the United States up to then. The answer he gave was quite appalling. What had kept him here all this while was the realization that he never came to the United States to seek acceptance or appreciation of his culture. Rather he had been given a chance to improve himself through the gift of quality education. He chose to do exactly that; staying focused on his education.
As a start, he took into reading many story books and novels. Any other English written material, he would take time, read, and try to pronounce the words correctly. As he put it, as time went by, his pronunciation improved and his speech got clearer than before. Ironically, in as much as getting Indian designed clothing in the United States was hard he always took some of the little up-keep money he received from the scholarship to send back to his Dad at home. He would then ask for attire that he was familiar with. Every time there would be a cultural festival back at home; he would dress himself up and join in celebrating the ceremonies while in the United States.
This experience was a turning point in his school life. As he took into different dressings of the Indian culture, there was a growing interest from his schoolmates to know what he was doing. He seized this chance to teach them Indian cultures and even made friends. Additionally, the people that would bully and tease him back then now stopped. Ironically, they also wanted to know some bits of the Indian culture. Life at school took a different turn, and it was now more accommodating. At the time of writing this paper, my roommate now has made several friends, even with the Indian-American ones that had isolated themselves. He has worked hard to teach them some of the Indian cultures and some of them have even sought to start practicing the cultures.
After this conversation, I took the time to compare this experience with other colleagues. Apparently, such experiences are common occurrences, especially for international students who have sought to study in other countries. Cultural barriers tend to bring up issues of isolation, stigma, and mistreatment from the host (Au 93-98). Two of my colleagues doing research on the same topic focused on international students in African schools, while another did research for Asian students born in the USA.
For my colleague interviewing an Asian friend who is a first generation Chinese immigrant, the friend who is born and raised in the United States speaks English only and knows no Chinese. When asked to describe himself, the Asian responded by saying that he is Asian, male, and a student. To his surprise, the Asian further added that his culture had very little to do with him.
The other colleague was interviewing a friend, a second generation Chinese immigrant. The Chinese friend added that at home the parents hardly spoke Chinese to her; rather, they preferred using English all the time. Surprisingly, when she asked him to describe himself, he responded by saying that, he is Asian, more specifically a Chinese, but does not know where he belongs; whether China or the United States.
In conclusion, comparing this with the readings we have had in class. It is clear that cultural deprivation happens among persons living in a different area other than where their kinds of cultural practices are common. The three examples given and compared above have reiterated this thought. To some point, cultural deprivation has led to alienation or even assimilation of some cultures, leading to complete extinction of some cultural practices.
Au, Kathryn Hu-pei. “Participation Structures in a Reading Lesson with Hawaiian Children: Analysis of a Culturally Appropriate Instructional Event.” Anthropology & Education 11.2: (1980) 91-115. Print.
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