Finding Your Cultural Identity at a PWI

Sally Lee, student, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo  |  November 4, 2022 in Pearson Students

A collection of 4 images of events with the blog author’s sorority.

Growing up, I always struggled with my cultural identity since I lived in a predominantly white area. Most of my peers and friends did not look like me, and most knew little to nothing about the country I was born in, South Korea. Therefore, I went through a very long phase of cultural rejection. I refused to speak the language and never wanted to take any Asian food to school. I tried my best to fit in with my peers.

Accepting My Culture

It wasn’t until seventh grade that I became more open-minded and susceptible to learning about my Korean culture. Food was always a part of my life, but now I craved Korean food more often than I did before and would ask my mom to cook certain dishes. I incorporated more of the culture such as music, tv shows, etc. into my life. This was a turning point in my journey of embracing my Asian American culture. Time passed and my culture became a bigger part of my life, but there was still more I could learn, and I felt like there were communities out there to help.

Progress Stalled

My progress was stalled when I decided to attend college at a predominantly white institution (PWI). I was hoping to go to a college with a bigger Asian American community. However, this could not be further from the truth. In the days leading up to leaving for college I started to worry that I would lose all the progress I’d made so far or hit a dead end since there was no difference from the environment I grew up in my whole life.

A Search for a Cultural Community

As soon as I got to campus, I was obviously comfortable with the environment since I was used to being around people who don’t look like me. But I wanted to challenge myself and continue my journey of finding my cultural identity. I decided to immerse myself in the different cultural communities on campus. The community that allowed me to finally feel a strong sense of belonging was my Asian-interest sorority, alpha Kappa Delta Phi. (This group uses four Greek letters in its name and chooses not to capitalize the first letter.) Being at a PWI, this sorority provides a home away from home and is a tight-knit group of young women that are pursuing a college degree and finding themselves. One of the pillars of this sorority is Asian Awareness which has played a huge role in helping me to truly find my cultural identity and embrace my Asian American culture. I have never been able to share so many experiences with so many other Asian American women. Being able to relate to so many other people was the best feeling in the world.

How Can I Make This Better for The Next Generation?

In addition, I have been able to engage in many dialogues with my sisters and talk about what cultural identity means to us and how we want our kids to be more in touch with their culture. Despite my worries, I have felt the most pride in my culture and am the most in touch with my culture during my time here in college because of this community that I found.

I urge you to share your stories, traditions, and ways that have made an impact on you and find a community that will help you embrace your culture. There is so much to learn about where you come from and what makes you, you. It’s never too late to start embracing your culture and striving to learn more about your identity.

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