As a white, upper class, educated, able-bodied female I recognize and understand that I’m blessed with more privilege than most. My parents have provided my siblings and I with a lavish lifestyle that came from years of their hard work. I don’t have to worry about affording my next meal or if I’m going to have a place to sleep at night.
Although I’ve been blessed with this lifestyle, I’m fully aware of the gender divide and the different components that come along with it. While women are automatically seen as lower than males (i.e. wage gap, pre-historic gender roles), there are certain groups of women that are more invisible than others. These women include people of color, women who are LGBTQUIA+, lower socioeconomic status women, etc. In the future, I hope to use my privilege to help speak out for those who are repressed in society.
I was reinforced and punished a certain way in order to live up to unobtainable gender roles. I’ve been inundated with television, magazines, or social media about how I should look, dress, and what I should eat. There’s a non-stop policing of women’s bodies that doesn’t necessarily come from laws. Not only do I have the media telling me what to do, but also I have people convincing me to get an IUD because my own government trying to control my body.
While these classes have definitely opened my eyes and exposed me to underlying, subconscious forms of oppression that I failed to recognize in the past, they also taught me that each person I encounter has various components that come into play to empower or create struggles in that person’s life. A person’s gender, birthplace, ethnicity, religion, ability, class, etc. ultimately create a path in which they are thrown obstacles. Depending on how these different components come together changes
While I understand that as a female I will face specific obstacles that my male counterparts don’t have to, I also know that as a white, educated, abled, upper-class woman I’m already way more ahead of the game than most. If anything, the take-away from this article should be that having privilege isn’t necessarily an evil, but you need to understand your privilege and how it affects others.
If you would like to use your privilege to help others out please consider donating to the organizations found on this website:
Even though I haven’t always realized it, community has played a huge role in my life.
I grew up in a stereotypical small town—exactly the kind you hear about in country music songs. Everybody knew everybody. The kids you graduated with were the same kids you played with at recess in kindergarten, and it was not possible to walk in our local grocery store without seeing someone you knew.
By the time I got to high school and began my college search, I was so sick of my small hometown that I was using college applications as a one-way ticket out. It’s not that I hated where I grew up, but I definitely didn’t understand what a special thing growing up in my close-knit community was. I didn’t realize how much I depended on the community around me and my small, close group of high school friends who I still depend on today. This community was something I had always had, so I took it for granted. I was just ready to go somewhere new, meet new people, learn about different cultures and start fresh. I wanted to have a conversation with someone who didn’t already know my life story.
As I sat in my room that I’d lived in since I was a baby and applied to colleges, all at least 700 miles from home, I never realized that it would end up being the hardest, most terrifying, yet without a doubt most rewarding thing I’d ever done. After I made my somewhat random decision, I ended up here at UGA, where the student population is four times the population of my hometown.
After the first week of excitement, starting classes, trying not to get lost, meeting hall mates and awkwardly trying to sit with strangers at Bolton, I began to feel lonely, homesick, and out-of-place. It did help that I was one of the lucky ones who had a really great freshman year roommate who I instantly became friends with. She introduced me to some of her friends and without her I’m not sure I would’ve made it through the first few weeks here.
Still, I felt like everyone was always with their friends from home talking about high school or their new sorority or something else I couldn’t relate to. I found myself craving the sense of community that I had ran from. I wanted nothing more than to walk in to a grocery store or pull in to a gas station and run into a friend’s mom, my elementary school teacher, that old couple who lived down the street, or just any familiar face.
Once I left home, it didn’t take long for me to realize how important community was. In fact, leaving home was probably the only way I ever would have. I learned that we naturally desire the feeling that we belong to something, and it is so important to be surrounded with individuals who care for, appreciate, and encourage you while you do the same for them. It is human nature.
Although I felt pretty intimidated, I didn’t doubt that with time I would find my place on campus.
So I became that freshman. I went to every activity fair and club interest meeting, I collected countless flyers, I put my name on dozens of email lists (which I still regret everyday when I look at my inbox) and eventually I landed at two places on campus that would end up feeling like home to me.
The first one was Relay For Life. This was intriguing to me because I had participated in Relay for years so it felt familiar to me. I joined a committee last year and was lucky enough to be selected for the executive board this year. The community within this organization has amazed me. It doesn’t take long to feel like part of the Relay family. Relay is filled with so many selfless people who truly care about others and dedicate so much of themselves to this organization.
I recently saw this quote that reminded me of the Relay community:
We all push and encourage each other to be the best we can. We recognize that when we all come together as a community, we can accomplish amazing things.
The second place on campus that I have found community in is the Wesley Foundation. Wesley is a campus ministry that has an all-freshman branch called Freshley. I joined Freshley last year and am a part of Wesley this year. Through Freshley and Wesley I’ve had the opportunity to join small groups where I’ve built incredible relationships with some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.
The people I have met through Wesley have changed my life and helped me grow in ways I never would have thought possible. Of all the time I’ve spent studying during my first three and a half semesters, the most valuable thing I’ve learned is how important it is to build relationships and to spend time with others who will be there with you during all of life’s craziness. Life can be hard and at times probably unbearable if you don’t have people you can count on to have your back.
At this point in life, it is so easy to get caught up in school but at the end of the day, life really isn’t about your GPA, or your major, or what grad schools you can get into, it’s about the people we meet, friends we make, and the lives we touch along the way.
I never really considered myself an official Third Culture Kid. I didn’t shuffle every two or three years from country to country, house to house, school to school. I made my first move ever in January of 2007, from the humid winter of Houston, Texas, to the brisk wind and gray skies of Paris, France.
I was ten years old at the time, and to be honest, I had no idea what to think or what to expect. I had all these conflicting feelings; Paris is Paris, so there’s that, but I was leaving behind a childhood of having my best friend living next door to me, my dog running around my large backyard, climbing trees and sleeping in my treehouse (despite the millions of mosquitos).
Knowing everyone in my small neighborhood and going to school K – 12 with all the same kids, and my large room that I naïvely thought was a good idea to paint hot pink. I vividly remember the last couple of weeks leading up to the day we left; everything we owned had already been shipped out, and our house felt like a desolate ruin. We were using a plastic dining table and patio furniture in our living room and sleeping in sleeping bags which were the only things that occupied our empty bedrooms.
But in no way was I prepared for the first few weeks of being somewhere completely new and foreign to me and unable to communicate for help. My parents had lived in Houston for eleven years prior to my birth, so they knew everyone and everything; I don’t think I saw them once pull out a map or use a GPS for directions.
I had always been a shy child, but I think I said maybe four words in my first two weeks of school. I had never been new, and I was awful at saying goodbyes, and I think that this was one of the largest things that distinguished me from being a true Third Culture Kid. Not only was I not a tapestry of all the different cultures I had lived with, because Texas was all I had previously ever known, but I didn’t seamlessly blend into a new environment like so many of these cultural chameleons did.
Every single one of them that I met executed the ‘new person’ routine flawlessly, and their goodbyes said, “I’ve loved my time here with you and it’s been great, but I’m off to a new adventure now!” excited to discover a new world and brushing right past the bitterness of leaving (which I, conversely, wallowed in).
Among croque monsieurs and baguettes and pâté and cafés au lait and lazy days on the Seine with a bottle of wine and falafels and the traditional Champs de Mars parties of my high school. My pre-teen and early teenage years were running back and forth from each other’s apartments to the Eiffel Tower to get crêpes, because it was the only ‘cool’ place within walking distance and our parents wouldn’t let us take the metro by ourselves.
They were catching the school bus (not a dingy yellow bus, but a charter tour bus) on a dreary winter morning outside of the award winning bakery that happened to be right downstairs, and if you got there early enough, beating the line to grab a still warm pastry for breakfast.
They were gathering in the residential neighborhood that somehow all my classmates lived in, getting Starbucks because we felt so grown up for drinking coffee, even though let’s be honest, it was mostly sugar. And we grew up fast.
Movie weekend nights turned into bar hopping and clubbing. We strived to be adults and the culture expected it of us. My high school years were filled with five hour lunches and three hour coffees, with happy hours at 5 and dinners at 10.
House parties that had an exuberant amount of alcohol and VIP sections at clubs, with late nights and early mornings, with midnight stops and sunrise moments at Trocadéro, with library naps and history classes from our famed teacher who knew how to give the most captivating lectures I’ve ever had, with all-nighters and endless English discussions among some truly brilliant classmates.
I realize that I was so fortunate to have had these experiences. In light of the recent Paris attacks, I’ve become more appreciative of my city and the culture than ever. I grew up in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the transformation I’ve had as a person is truly remarkable. Despite the fact that I hold American citizenship, I felt like a foreigner when I came back to the United States for university after eight years abroad.
Everything moves so fast here. Everyone is always busy and moving and I just want to sit around and have a cup of coffee for four hours with my best friend while we talk about school, bars, food, movies, love, life. I have learned how to do my introductions well and to say my goodbyes with as little heartbreak as possible. I’ve learned to relax and take life in stride.
I’m no longer the shy child I once was, and I’m not so afraid to make my voice heard (still a little scared though, but that’s alright, old habits die hard). I’ve learned that it’s okay not to be okay, and that it’s also okay to put myself first.
Moreover, I’ve learned to be humble but proud, a quality that I think is often lost in our adolescence, a time that we think we are invincible. Not invincible in the physical sense, but rather in a way that says, “I can take anything life dares to throw at me,” and we often forget how vulnerable we can be. I’ve learned to embrace my vulnerability, to go through life without always thinking about protecting myself, because although putting yourself out there can be terrifying, it often yields benefits.
My adolescent years were spent in the city of Paris, France, a city that seemed far too grown up for a ten year old Asian-American girl who didn’t speak a word of French. My life was sipping vin chaud at the annual Christmas market on the Champs Elysées, it was ordering foie gras at the butcher to pair with a hot baguette, it was the bustling noises of the restaurant delivery trucks in the morning and the mopeds buzzing by at night (and wow, I did not realize how much of my life revolved around gastronomy).
It was travelling to Amsterdam, London, Brussels, just for the day for a swim meet, it was the long walks in the Bois de Boulogne with my dog and three day weekend trips with my family. It was an experience that I’ve now deemed ultimately priceless, as every day felt like a new discovery, not only of the city and of Europe but of myself and my identity.
Now, back in the States at Emory University, whenever people ask me where I’m from, I usually say Paris, because although I don’t hold French citizenship, I feel more culturally French than American. I think that those pre-teen and teenage years are so important in finding oneself.
It’s when you discover what you’re like, what kind of people you like, how you cope with everything that happens, be it school, relationships, stress, whatever.
Paris shaped me into a young woman ready to tackle the world as a semi-adult (because honestly, I still get anxiety from scheduling my own doctor’s appointments), encouraging me to embrace everything I can but to not forget my past and to remain true to what I believe in. And for that, I am eternally grateful