“Can I guess where you’re from? I’m really good at guessing.”
“Thailand? Cambodia? China? Is it a country in Asia?”
After every guess, I shook my head, but for whatever reason, this guy seemed persistent to get the right answer. Maybe it was the lack of lighting in this bar or his inability to read facial expressions, but with every country that he named off, I started to settle into my default fake politeness phase. I didn’t have a chance to ask him if he considered the United States before my friend physically pulled me away. Wherever I go, this question seems to follow me around, but it doesn’t have the same heavy discomfort that it used to.
I grew up in a fairly diverse community, so my identity as an Asian American wasn’t analyzed under a microscope or heavily questioned; it was just there. However, when I started attending the University of Iowa, it seemed like my ethnicity had quickly made me a target of frequent comments ranging from “You’re pretty cute for an Asian” to “So, where are you from? Like from from?” This made me slightly nervous to study abroad in Ireland, which has a predominately Caucasian population and a 3% Asian population. Looking back, I projected my concerns that I had in my home university into Ireland, concerned I would be hit with similar questions or stick out like a sore thumb because I was the token minority. During the first week, I felt moments of insecurity because I felt like I stuck out when I was around groups of female classmates, who all happened to be Caucasian and have blonde hair. In busy tourist locations, I was worried that I would be separated from other interns and automatically be swept into large groups of Asian tourists and no one would notice.
I've been in Ireland for almost a month now and I can confidently say that my identity as an Asian American has not hindered my experiences and comfort levels in Ireland. From my personal experience, the people of Ireland have been nothing but welcoming and accepting. I’ve been in 3 cities in Ireland so far and I can say that I haven’t been treated differently in either cities. A 3% Asian population does not sound huge, but let me tell you, there has not been one single day that I’ve been around Dublin that I have not seen a person of color. There are Asian restaurants and businesses on numerous streets and sights of many Asian students when I’m traveling through the city. I was just in Northern Ireland this weekend and there were Asian resturants on nearly every street. Speaking of Asian resturants, I'm going to shift gears for a minute to a little more casual topic and a moment of streaming consciousness, but as an Asian American, a large part of my culture includes food. I'm already a huge foodie, but being here in Ireland has made me miss authentic Chinese food. I had Tesco orange chicken last week and I can tell you Panda Express is so much better. I've been craving Chinese bakery treats and egg waffles, but those seem to be non-existent here, so drop suggestions in the comments to help a girl out.
But back to my original post, from my time just walking down the streets of Belfast to hiking in Giant's Causeway, I can guarantee you that Chinese will be one of the first languages you hear. What I’m trying to say is that, I don’t feel any more or any less Asian when I’m here. I don’t feel blatantly stared at, judged or treated any differently because of the color of my skin and it’s such a relieving feeling. I've been asked by a few people about my ethnicity and cultural upbringing, but in a respectful and curious way, rather than an intrusive way. I'm sure there are those people that will stare or judge without me knowing but that's a pretty universal thing. Yes, I might have gotten that one minor comment when I first arrived here, but I know I will continue to get that question no matter what country I am in. I refuse to let that one small incident be an accurate representation of an entire country.
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<p>I am an ambitious marketing major at the University of Iowa with the dreams of pursing a career in the cosmetics industry. During my free time, I enjoy taking Instagram worthy photos, drinking overpriced iced coffee, watching investigative journalism shows and lifting heavy weights at the gym. If you ever need to find me, I'll either be at Starbucks, sitting outside on a picnic blanket or strolling through the aisles of Target. While interning in Dublin, I hope to gain real life marketing experience, explore all the major foodie locations and make demonstrate my leadership abilities regardless of my skill levels.</p>