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How I Realized I Wasn’t Meant to Fit In

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

My whole life, I struggled with fitting in. I always felt on the outside whether I was home or I was around friends. Now let me set the record straight: I’m not the star of a teen drama. I am simply a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants. I struggled with balancing my ethnic culture and ensuring that I never lost touch, while simultaneously being more Americanized and fitting in with my peers. I felt left out when I brought eggs and rice to school and was thoroughly questioned about my lunch as if I had brought a bomb to school instead. When I was home, I spoke an Americanized slang version of Vietnamese that wasn’t the same Vietnamese my parents spoke. It was very clear to me that these two sides were strong parts of me and did not fit into the same world.

I did, however, realize something. The way American culture is centered around the concept of a melting pot of culture is damaging to actual cultures that exist in America. People are so focused on emphasizing that being American means being individualized, yet having to lose some of that individualization to fit in with the rest of America. It’s a bit of a hard thing to cover, but I have the experience to demonstrate this.

When I was younger, my parents were scared that I would be bullied and isolated solely for being a little different than my non-first generation peers (I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood). They told me “Don’t stand out, make sure you do whatever the other kids do” which screamed in my mind until I was out of high school. The hostile culture that exists in America that insists on washing out the culture of immigrants, despite being built by immigrants, is un-American in my opinion.

Beyond simple things, many Americans experience this on a deeper level outside of childhood experiences. This diaspora confuses them about who to be. It causes some to completely forgo the culture that bore them. It causes others to be so proud of their culture that they condemn other cultures. This hostile environment fostered by America goes beyond affecting the psyche of Americans—it ensures that unless you have completely washed out all culture and what makes you YOU, that you will continue to struggle in America. Some people are rejected from job opportunities, regardless of skill and qualifications, solely due to having an ethnic name. Others are criticized for speaking another language, whether it’s in public or private.

Knowing all this, I hope eventually this barrier that exists in America disappears. Until then, however, I will continue to live in a manner that respects and emphasizes my individuality as a Vietnamese American.

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Catherine is a student at the University of Central Florida. She is majoring in health administration with a minor in literature. She is a first generation Vietnamese women who hopes to use her writing both as a hobby and professionally. If you can't find her eating or studying, then she''ll be found curled up with her cat watching The Office.
UCF Contributor