This entire past term, I’ve felt out of touch with my Chinese culture. While there is an Asian community in Philadelphia and Drexel University, it’s definitely not as prevalent as California and the city I grew up in there, so coming here has been one of the biggest culture shocks ever.
Each day, I feared I would suddenly forget how to speak Cantonese. I feared I would suddenly forget all about my culture because essentially, that is my identity and I was beginning to lose it. I love Philadelphia; I’ve made a lot of unforgettable memories here and I’ve met many amazing people, but losing connection to my culture has been an unfortunate consequence. What pulled me up from falling into that deep trench was joining the Taiwanese Student Association, a cultural club at Drexel.
Cultural clubs matter. They allow you to have a sense of place in this community, and given how large Drexel is, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the crowd. Joining TSA provided me a safe haven. It allowed me to join a community of people who understood the culture shocks that I experienced.
Although I am not Taiwanese, I decided to join the association because my parents were from Hong Kong and the two places share a lot of similarities. However, I wasn’t involved with the club until I began to feel homesick. When this happened, I began to branch out more and as a result, I met many people who were from all over the world, including New York City, Los Angeles and even Taiwan. We would share our experiences about what it’s like living in Philadelphia as an Asian. We talk a lot about Asian food and boba tea, but what gives me a sense of home is that we all share a similar background and they understand what I’m going through. I was able to express how I felt being so far away from my hometown and hearing their similar stories reassured me that I wasn’t the only one who was experiencing this. We were all in the same boat and that gave me relief.
In fact, this past month I made many new memories and formed even more intimate connections with the members. For instance, there was an Asian night market held by several Asian organizations in May. In preparation for the event, I sorted food and set up games with TSA members. This camaraderie that we shared distracted me from the fact that I was homesick. We talked and played games together. We laughed a lot and we grew closer and in the end, we all shared a tasty meal of Taiwanese minced pork over rice.
A week after this event, a few members and I decided to get dinner at Dan Dan, a Taiwanese restaurant in Center City. We shared lots of laughs and our Drexel struggles, but talking to them made me feel at ease; it made me feel like I was home. At the end of the night, we made a Snapchat group and now, we regularly update each other on our lives.
None of these connections would have been possible if it weren’t for cultural clubs. It’s important to be able to find your place in such a large community. They’re more than a simple “fun” activity to do when you have time. They help you build connections with people who share a similar background as you.
At the end of the day, joining TSA has given me copious amount of opportunities that I wouldn’t have found in a professional organization. It’s one of the best choices I’ve made in college.