In light of International Women’s Day on March 8th, Her Campus Lasell found it necessary to highlight the woman that has impacted our lives or who we see making a difference for their community for this week (and every day). In this Empowering Woman Series, we have chosen to interview students, friends, family, and professors about what they do and what it’s like being bada** empowering women.
Today I’d like to introduce you all to my roommate, best friend, and the strongest woman I know. Her name is Evelyn Sourn, and I’m honored to have been able to interview her and give you a little inside scoop into her life and thoughts.
Evelyn is a first-generation Cambodian/Chinese student here at Lasell University. Having known her for a long time, I feel that there are two things she deems very important in her life, probably without even realizing it herself: her family, and her culture. If you were to ask her, she wouldn’t say that she celebrates her culture as much as those in her community at home, but it’s something that defines her.
“It’s hard,” she said when I asked her what it was like to be a first-generation student, “I don’t have anyone who helps me, you know? Even my brother, who’s been through this before. But it makes my family proud.” I admire Evelyn partly because she’s always thinking about others; even something as personal and individual as a college degree is not just about her.
That being said though, college isn’t everything to her. “Society convinces immigrants that education is a success. I’m proud that I’m trying to educate and better myself but I truly don’t get the hype. It sucks that to get anywhere, you have to get a degree. It’s not fair to those who can’t.” And while I think a lot of students who are currently studying to attain degrees would agree, it’s a whole different story when you have parents who immigrated here to give you a better life; and their idea of a better life is a college education.
I began to wonder how her family keeps their culture alive at home. Evelyn often brings traditional Khmer food to parties and takes us to restaurants where our friends can try things, quite literally giving us a taste of her culture. “We focus on food because it’s a big part of our culture but it’s also the easiest way to keep it alive.” Sometimes they get food imported from Cambodia or Evelyn’s mom’s coworkers will bring delicacies into work and share. They only eat Cambodian food at home, but they also celebrate all the holidays and go to the temple whenever they can. As someone who’s an Italian-American, no one in my family speaks the language, and besides the Italian feasts in Boston during the summer we don’t do all that much to celebrate our heritage, so I’m often fascinated by all the things Evelyn gets to do in her culture. But she says that she gets jealous too; “we’re not super assimilated in the Cambodian culture because we had to assimilate into American culture. I get jealous when I see people who know more about their culture though. Like their cultural dances and other things because I feel like I’m falling into the “white-washed” trope. But I hate that word; I hated when people used to call me that.”
I admire Evelyn because despite having multiple cultures in her life and despite identifying with so many different things, she knows who she is. She isn’t afraid to express herself as she sees fit and there are so many different parts to her that you learn something new about her every day. She celebrates every part of herself and it feels empowering to be around her.
When I asked who inspires her, she mentioned the females in her family. Her mom, aunt, grandma, etc. She says they’ve dealt with a lot but yet they’re still here, and she admires strong women. “They’re warriors and they take care of it all.”
I hope Evelyn knows that she’s yet another strong warrior in a long line of inspirational women.