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Vol 1. About identity problems I am going through

The perplexity I felt while studying aboard in Tokyo

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Sunshine Yang

(The letter was originally posted on my blog.)

Hello, friends,

It is becoming hotter these days. What is the weather like in your city?

This week I would like to talk about an impressive reading I read in a course I took, which is Maybe you only look white written by Becca Gercken-Hawkins.

(Please feel free to read an article I wrote based on the reading How the power structure is hindering diversity, human rights, and democracy, and how to confront it

The author illustrates the problem of ethnic authority she encountered as a multicultural literature specialist at the University of Minnesota, a state-run university at Morris. She had to make an effort to show others her ethnicity as Cherokee and Irish American because of her white-like appearance and is currently experiencing common identity conflicts on campus, such as doubts from students about her academic authority as a specialty. These uncomfortable events raised her conflicted consciousness that, while benefiting from the university’s hiring politics, she found it problematic to reinforce the cultural connection between appearance and specialty.

After reading the essay, I had some thoughts on my situation of being an international student in Japan. I hate being labeled or categorized by others without having deep conversations with me. However, unavoidably, I felt inspected by others with curiousness every time as a foreigner. A typical example is that most Japanese would be surprised about my inability to eat spicy food because Sichuan cuisine is an essential part of Chinese cuisine in their image. Every time I will explain that, first of all, cuisine differences a lot among regions in China. For instance, Cantonese cuisine is light in taste. However, living in Guangdong for 18 years doesn’t mean that I only eat Cantonese cuisine because most of the time, I ate my mother’s hand-cooked meal, which was very different from typical Cantonese cuisine. In conclusion, everyone has their situation.

The thing is, I don’t feel upset about such inspections. Sometimes I even feel grateful for my foreigner identity because it provided many topics during conversations to avoid embarrassment. Nonetheless, I realized that the expectation influenced my decision in many cases, which gradually became my fetters. For example, I subconsciously chose to design an apartment that has a related topic to my foreigner identity. However, I realized that this is not the architecture I wanted to create during the making process. I project others’ expectations on my pursing.

These things raised my confusion about self-identification. I have no choice but to face the subtle but critical influences of expectations as the only international student in my department. Moreover, my rebelling against labeling stimulates over-reactions when facing stereotyping, negatively affecting my daily life and personal relationships.

Therefore, I wonder if I will be able to remove the constraints from labels and expectations and spend time at university as a normal student rather than an international student? Do students at colleges where international students are ubiquitous have similar confusion with me?

Live Updating

  • Before the sketching course, I have never seen an actual model. I felt highly inspired when facing a life with a beautiful body. During the 3-hour session, I intentionally focused on blurring some outline edges to provide sketching deepness. Suddenly I realized that I could concentrate more when drawing with physical materials rather than with digital devices, which may be become the reason for my drawing bottleneck.

  • Adding the animating clothes to the background of “Only for ‘me.’” During the feedback session, I asked my professor about how to make an animation that only targets a minor group of people. He answered that if you do not need to make most people empathize with your work, then the best way is putting all your zeal into the making process, then it will convey the message to viewers naturally. His word hit me like a stone. While worrying about others’ low possibility of understanding my work, I almost forget that first, I have to create a perfect piece that can stir my heart of myself.

This is a short newsletter for this week! Please feel free to leave some comments on the post or send an email to me.

I hope you have a good week!


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