OASIS Hosts Speaker to Discuss Asian American Student Issues

Friday, November 4, 2016 OASIS Hosts Speaker to Discuss Asian American Student Issues

Rebecca Reinhardt speaks at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, students filled the OASIS Student Lounge to discuss the challenges that Asian American and international students face at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Speaker Rebecca Reinhardt opened the discussion by reflecting on her own struggle to learn English and adapt to American culture after moving from China.

As an educated woman with a degree from the Beijing Broadcasting University, Reinhardt worked in radio for 11 years before moving with her American husband to the United States. In her current role as the the cultural programs coordinator at the Asian Community and Cultural Center in Lincoln, Reinhardt organizes annual cultural celebrations hosted by the Asian Center and is a community advocate.

Beyond the language barrier, Reinhardt emphasized the cultural barriers that Asian international students often face when they arrive in America. She recalled personal experiences related to gift giving customs, cooking with an oven (which was fairly uncommon in China) and saying “no” to her mother-in-law.

She reiterated that the U.S. is seen as a dream to students in many countries. However, once the students arrive in the U.S., they are overwhelmed by the number of things to figure out and learn. When asked whether she thought more preparations could take place prior to students travelling to the U.S., Reinhardt was quick to comment. She said it would never work because the agencies that send students are only interested in their payment for the placement.

While much of the conversation focused on the experience of Chinese students in the U.S., many of the students in attendance were Asian Americans interested in sharing their experiences. Graduate student Ashley Hornsby said this was the first event sponsored by the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services (OASIS) she’d attended.

“The speaker's experiences sounded very similar to my mother’s. I grew up in a Korean American household, with my mother being Korean and my father being American, so a lot of the points she made resonated with me personally. I wanted to take this opportunity to hear other’s experience as well as potentially share my own,” said Hornsby.

Similarly, students Simon Wang and Christy Yang want to develop connections with more Asian American students at Nebraska. To do so they are working to grow the newly established Asian American Student Union.

“After attending the National Conference of Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) and the Midwest Asian American Student Union (MAASU) with the guidance of my mentor, Sylvia Hall, who used to work at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, I desired to make an official RSO on campus,” said Yang, the organization’s president.

“Honestly, I want AASU to be a safe space for those who identify as Asian and to talk about all the many issues the Asian community has to face. I feel like there are several Asian related issues that we tend to avoid or ignore, but we have to talk about these. If we don’t tell our stories, someone else will.”

AASU Vice President Simon Wang feels the same need to discuss personal experiences. Wang noted that Asian Americans represent 2.5 percent of Nebraska’s students and emphasized the need to embrace self-identity.

“‘Asian American’ is a broad label that can apply to a wide range of people (first generation immigrant, adopted, biracial, etc.),” explained Wang as he expressed appreciation for Reinhardt’s dialogue.

“With both of my parents being originally from China, I found Rebecca's story to be inspiring and relatable. In addition, her story is a reminder of the struggles that my parents went through when they moved to the US. As a first-born generation American, I feel that I have a moral responsibility to promote a community that is inclusive of all people.”

Students and the university community are invited to further discuss "What does it mean to be Asian American?" at the Late Night Dish It Up session on Thursday, Nov. 17 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the OASIS Student Lounge.

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