Finding A Cultural Community

Growing up in a mixed race household, I've had a variety of experiences when it comes to cultural contact. However, since my mother immigrated to the United States at a relatively young age, she assimilated rather quickly and did not remain very connected to her Japanese heritage. As a result of this and the demographic breakdown of the town in which I grew up, I was never very connected to the Asian American community. After coming to Penn, I found multiple outlets to explore this part of my identity. The first was the Japan Student Association (JSA). Before I even came to campus, another student reached out to me on Facebook after he saw my post in our class group. He asked if I was planning on joining JSA, which we both ultimately did. We quickly became close friends and bonded over our experiences with the group. We did a variety of activities such as attending the cherry blossom festival, hosting the annual Mochi-fest event, going out for karaoke, and more. My favorite part of this experience is that you did not have to be Japanese at all to join JSA or take part in these activities. It was simply a group of people interested in connected with the culture.

The second experience that had a strong impact on my cultural identity was joining APALI. APALI is a leadership initiative for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. It's a one semester program with students from all different years. We started the semester with a weekend retreat and became very close to each other very quickly. Throughout the rest of the semester, we met once every other week for a 3 hour discussion section. Each discussion had a different theme ranging from things like fat-phobia to affirmative action. It was really amazing to connect with such a diverse group of people that were all tied together by a cultural identity, and participating ultimately lead to a wide variety of other experiences throughout the semester as we opened up our lives to other members in our group. Through both these experiences, I was able to expand my cultural perspectives while also developing a new community for myself within Penn. I feel very fortunate to have had these opportunities, since I almost feel like I stumbled upon them by chance. Interestingly enough, it was actually a fellow College Cognoscenti co-presenter of mine that recommended I apply for APALI. I think this speaks for many of the interactions I've had at Penn, in which peers are constantly looking to introduce new experiences to each other.

-Daniel K, C’20