Social Contract to Myself

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August 23rd to September 2nd

My name is Felix Lee, and I am about to embark on a journey on the other side of the world. My preparation to study abroad began before I had started college. All my siblings, guidance counselors, and mentors advocated for this life-changing opportunity. After listening to all their testimonies, I equated studying abroad with having an “ideal college experience.” As I entered Boston College, I sought out resources to plan for this adventure. I researched scholarships, various programs, and created pros and cons lists for distinct regions of the world. However, I soon realized I lacked clarity about why I desired to go abroad. I believed studying abroad presented me with an opportunity to mature as an individual, but I did not understand how. I believed living in a foreign state would make me a better person, but I did not understand how. I had rooted my motivations in generalities and vague ideas. My actions and thoughts lacked intentionality, and I felt trapped by the expectation to have an “ideal college experience.”

Over the past three years, I have refined my justifications to study abroad through persistent self-reflection. As a student of color in a predominantly wealthy and White university, my sense of identity felt threatened. I was neither White nor wealthy. From the first day of orientation, I had already sensed I was living in a separate world from the majority of BC students. Simultaneously, as I confronted these external stressors, I waged an internal war with myself. As an Asian American, I fell into a gray area of not being “American” enough and not being “Chinese” enough. For the majority of my childhood and adolescence, I despised being Chinese. I refused to speak the language and internalized the perceived realities that Asian men were nerdy, feminine, and “not cool.” I challenged these stereotypes by embodying toxic masculinity and appropriating aspects of Black culture. Needless to say, my efforts were futile and yielded more negative consequences. I became less and less proud of my own identity and culture. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.

Throughout my first three years at BC, I have attempted to reconcile my past shame with self-acceptance. Weekend retreats and late-night conversations with my roommates/best friends have challenged me to decolonize my mind. I realized I had invested a great deal of my self-worth in becoming a person molded by societal expectations. I did not know how to be my genuine self. Studying abroad in Hong Kong represents the first milestone in a lifelong journey to reconnect with my roots. I will become a “better person” by accepting and being proud of my identity as an Asian American. While abroad, I will speak the language. I will commit myself to study my history. And I pledge to never again abandon my sense of self. As Oscar Wilde once stated, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Thank you for reading, and I will post again in a week.