Being given the opportunity to study abroad in London has been a blessing for a multitude of reasons, but above all, I have appreciated the diversity that exists in London. Attending Boston College, which is a predominantly white institution, my study abroad experience at an institution where 48% of the students are international, with representation from more than 150 countries, has been tremendously refreshing.
My time in London and at UCL, a global university, has been nothing short of diverse, but the same was not necessarily true when I traveled to other countries. In countries such as Italy and Spain (Barcelona and Mallorca), I found staring to be very common among the locals. I understand that exposure is a way to seek to understand the different cultures and ethnicities that individuals may come across, but I found myself extremely disturbed by a lot of the sentiments towards Asian American students like me. For example, in Lake Como, at our hotel for breakfast, I was asked by a server, “Ooo, are you from Japan?” Additionally, in Iseltwald, Switzerland, when my group of friends sat down to eat at a restaurant, those of us who are Asian were asked if we were from the Philippines.
Reflecting on these experiences, I have learned the importance of being active instead of passive. I have found importance in not being a submissive listener when it comes to these comments but instead confidently responding back in a respectful manner, correctly outlining where I am from and what ethnicity I am. While it is frustrating to hear comments like this, I have learned that informing people and responding respectfully go a long way as well. After all, this ultimately helps others become more respectful of cultural, racial, and ethnic differences.
I am definitely excited to come back to the States soon because I am returning from abroad with a more global understanding of the norms of exclusion and inclusion on the basis of race.