Growing up, I have found it difficult to identify with any specific groups due to the geographical instability of my childhood and the abrasiveness by which it mandated me to leave every place before a sense of belonging could develop. Unable to conform to an expected stereotype, I was instead labeled as a social outcast.
At the age of three, I left my hometown Chongqing, China, for Montreal, Canada and turned into an odd Chinese Canadian whose mother tongue was French. A few years later, I returned to China and attended a Beijing-based international school. Most of my classmates were foreign citizens so I made very few local friends. It did not bother me until one day a Chinese girl who sat next to me on the bus stopped talking to me once she found out that I was not legally Chinese but Canadian. This incident taught me the toxic nature of prejudice, which may shape how we are perceived but not necessarily who we are.
Right after I finished fifth grade in China, my family decided to move back to Montreal, where my past impression of the city no longer represented my current situation. Not only did I lose my French, but I also could not reconnect with any former friends. However, a part of me just knew the city and that conviction enabled me to recover French in a month, only to move to Vancouver a year later. There, I had to reposition myself to speak English, though the prospect of scratching together a new language was no longer daunting after so many attempts.
Now a college student at a school with great diversity, I cannot help but thank my upbringing for getting me to where I am. Being different was no longer isolating but empowering. It matters little that Chinese people think I am Canadian, Americans think I am Chinese, or Canadians think I am American. While these perceptions are incorporated into my identity, they do not dictate who I am because I am the product of their synthesis with an individuality of its own. Being different has allowed me to make sense of myself so that group recognition is no longer needed.
As far as community is concerned, the uniqueness of my experience propelled me to nurture an environment that empowers other students. With such a vision, I founded the IR Insider, a news publication that values differences and invites each writer to be an identifier of truth. Supported by over 50 staff members, we not only cover international affairs, but also topics such as science and technology. In motivating students to venture out of their comfort zones, we created an event reporting section where they could attend and write about events in NYC on our behalf.
To further stimulate discourse, I also organized a series of panels on identity politics, where panelists discuss issues surrounding race/ethnicity, language, religious diversity, street harassment, and other important topics from their own experiences. Similarly, I am working on an exhibition to highlight political implications of films through French and Francophone cinema. Reaching the end of my time in college, I want to extend endeavors like these beyond my school community by becoming a journalist who raises awareness on topics of public interest.