I was born in Taiwan and raised in Shanghai. Growing up, I was very privileged to be surrounded by students from different nationalities. We were taught to be open-minded and were educated on cultural awareness. Nonetheless, it was a massive cultural shock when I arrived at the University. Not only was it the first time I lived by myself away from home, but it was also the first time I lived in a Western country. In particular, my parents had major reservations. Both of them grew up in Taiwan and had never lived in an English-speaking country. Microaggressions weren’t uncommon when we travelled, and it was almost something I expected when we were abroad. And so, my parents feared that this would persist at university.
Adjusting to university
Not only was university a major lifestyle change, but it was also a cultural adjustment for me. Although there were moments where I would look around and find myself being the only Asian in the room, I have been very lucky to have formed diverse friendships throughout my time at Bath. Bath has a large international student community, through which I have been able to meet students from a variety of nationalities. I have been able to meet other Asian students and we have been able to celebrate festivities like Chinese New Year together, easing feelings of homesickness and loneliness.
As I was accustomed to interacting with international students, integrating with students from the UK was unfamiliar territory for me. I quickly became aware of how my accent stood out amongst my friends who had studied in the UK, and how I couldn’t relate to a lot of my friends’ childhood and family experiences. Truthfully, I often felt out of place. Though it took courage to put myself out there initially, the more I did, the more I felt like I was welcomed in with open arms. I felt a sense of community as I took part in clubs and societies and found myself surrounded by both English and international students. I have grown to appreciate having different friendship groups with different upbringings, and I have also learnt to take pride in my culture and background, realising it forms an integral part of who I am today.
Looking back at my four years at Bath, I am very grateful for the experience I’ve had. What I’ll miss most about my time at Bath is the community aspect. This extends beyond the student community, but also to the local community. On some days, this looks like having a conversation with someone whilst waiting in line for coffee. It is a welcoming environment and I feel extremely fortunate to have spent my university years here. As I’m sure many Asian students can relate, home has felt especially distant over COVID-19. I have been very fortunate to not only call this city home, but for it to truly feel like home as well.
Whilst there’s no doubt there is still work to be done and we all have an active role to play in tackling racial equality, the University has been proactive and has set up the Race Equality Taskforce. Furthermore, the university has provided us with the Report and Support tool, where student, staff and visitors can report any misconduct or discriminatory act. Having tools like this available provides a sense of reassurance that we are supported and cared for at Bath, and above all, it is a priority for the University.