My go-to introduction at Penn usually goes something along the lines of, “My name is Julia, I’m from Taiwan, and I’m a sophomore studying English and Computer Science.” For me, the part about being from Taiwan is a natural statement--it is, after all, where I lived for eight years, and where my family currently resides. It wasn’t until recently, amid discussions about internships and voting, that several of my peers were surprised to find out that I can actually work and vote in the US.
So the long story is that I was born in Boston, but moved to Hong Kong at an early age because of my parents’ jobs, and ended up in Taiwan for the second half of my childhood. I had always attended international schools, and both English and Mandarin are my first languages. Growing up straddling multiple cultures felt natural to me.
At the same time, I don’t fit in the quintessential “Third Culture Kid” profile that sites like Buzzfeed often publish lists about. I haven’t attended ten schools in eight countries in the span of three years; I’m not mixed; I grew up considering myself Asian-American. Then I got to Penn and realized that my conception of Asian-American is completely different from what my peers, who grew up in the US, understand. The beauty of Penn’s diverse student body, though, is that mutual understanding does not depend on geographical or cultural circumstances at all.
The people closest to me at Penn seldom have the same background as I do, but there is something about the people here, an openness towards new ideas, that allows us to bond despite our perceived differences. It really comes down to personality, and that of course, knows no socially constructed limits.
-Julia W. '18