“Does Valpo even know who I am?”
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.
Transcript for I’m Not an Exchange Student
Well, my family, well, we’re all Japanese: we’re from Japan. I have three younger sisters, but me and my other sister right after me, we were both born in Japan. So after us two were born, my — it was my father’s job that required us to move to the United States, so we were at California for about four years, I think. And then after that, my dad’s job got moved to the Midwestern area, so then I’ve lived in the United States for about sixteen, seventeen years, so pretty much most of my life. And then my younger two sisters were both born in the United States. My younger two sisters have dual citizenship with Japan and the United States. Me and other sister, and my parents — we’re all permanent residents, but we use green cards to live here, so we’re not technically citizens.
I speak Japanese at home because I speak that language fluently. I learned Japanese first, so I would say that’s my primary language, but I do speak English more often, so it comes easier to me than Japanese nowadays, I feel like.
People have assumed that I’m an exchange student probably multiple times. Well actually, towards the beginning of starting Valpo, I thought that Valpo thought I was an exchange student, and I was very offended by that, actually. Because they sent me messages like, saying, ‘Oh hello, like, international students or like, exchange students,’ — or, I don’t remember exactly. And I was like, ‘I’m not an international, like, exchange student.’ So I went up to like, clear that up with them and then they were like, ‘Oh, like, we just sent it to people who are like, also just like, permanent residents, so it’s not just if you’re an exchange student.’ And I was like, ‘Oh ok.’ But I was, like, kind of like thinking, ‘Does Valpo even know who I am? Like, ‘Do they actually know that I’m not an exchange student?’ So like, I did have that at one point.
I just kind of felt like they didn’t really put in the effort to like, I guess like, get to know who I am more rather than just looking at, ‘Oh hey, her name is Aya Takahashi. Like, you know, She’s probably an exchange student.’
I have been approached numerous times by like, specific minority groups, usually through email. But Asian American Association would usually send emails to me, and I would check kind of like the list of people who they sent emails to, and it’s usually all the people with like, Asian names, so they kind of like look for the Asian people and then send the emails out, I think. And then, I know that the Japanese exchange students, they usually come up to me, they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re doing an Asian event like at this time. You should come over.’ And stuff like that. So I guess I do get targeted from those kind of organizations. But I feel like, besides like, the exchange students, it’s not very personal. It’s kind of like, ‘Oh I found your name through like, you know, the email list and sent an email out.’ So I usually just don’t go to them.
Having minority organizations, I think it’s — I think it’s a great thing, but I feel like it’s not very well advertised. Well, actually, they are pretty well advertised, but I just feel like not a lot of people go to them unless like, you’re very, very involved in like, multicultural organizations or you’re of that ethnicity that they have the organization for. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s like, super-beneficial either at this point right now because it doesn’t involve very many other students on campus. I just feel like there could be a way to involve like, different kind of students. But they just haven’t… Like, I know that Valpo’s been trying, I definitely see the effort, but just, I don’t think it’s at it’s full, like ability that like, to be able to do that yet. Like I don’t know if it’s like maybe the students’ efforts are sucking, or like the university’s efforts are sucking, but… I feel like there could be a way to like, make it happen but it just hasn’t reached that level yet.