by: Aisyah Ashrafswandi, 2nd year Graduate Student, Master’s in Public Affairs
I grew up in Hong Kong – a tiny dot on the map, just on the coast of South China, and an extremely culturally diverse city. I think there are so many positive outcomes of multi-cultural environments – a shared celebration of cultural differences that encourage unity and mutual respect. While I hold a Malaysian passport, I recognize myself as a native to Hong Kong, since I was born and raised there. However, even though I was a native to this concrete jungle, part of me always felt like I didn’t truly belong. In secondary school, I made a music video to a parody of Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness” and titled it, “Identity Crisis” for a school project. I am not going to attach this video because it is quite embarrassing. Anyway, from a young age, I had often been confused with my place in society. Even though I grew up with a lot of ethnic minorities like myself, I had never felt a true sense of belonging in my home city.
Both my parents left their home countries for Hong Kong in hopes of creating a better life for themselves. My father is from Malaysia, and my mother is from the Philippines. It was fate that brought them together and 23 years later, here I am now – 7,946 miles away from home. It’s been two years since I’ve seen my family and even though it’s been extremely difficult, those tough times where I had wished I was just home have given me so much strength and drive to keep going forward. Prior to coming to America five years ago, I didn’t know how hard it would be to be so far away. But then I think about how that was probably how my parents felt when they left their homes, and how much they sacrificed just so they can build a family and life of their own.
I mention my parents because they are my biggest motivators, supporters, and inspirations in life. They’ve managed to build a great life for themselves out of very little. They’ve worked so hard to be able to support my younger sister and I, and for that, I am so proud of and grateful for them. My sister, who is 6 years younger than me, is graduating high school in a year. I moved out of our home when I was 16 and part of me always wishes that I was able to watch her grow up over the past 5 years. Every time I visit my family, I am just shocked at how much she’s grown – and not just her, but my parents as well. I feel like sometimes, I get too caught up with my own life, that I forget that my parents are getting old and growing as well.
Throughout my life, I had been exposed to many revolting aspects of society – inequality, poverty, corruption, human trafficking, and faulty economic systems. From my point of view, a lot of these problems stem from pride, prejudice, privilege, and classism. I guess my motivation for completing an MPA could be accredited to various moments of aggravation towards systems of oppression, exploitation, and corruption. Today’s societies are heavily reliant on institutions to create order and structure within their systems. An individual’s overall well-being is heavily dependent on their government and the quality of welfare, education infrastructure, transportation, employment, and development. This program really helped develop my critical analysis skills and expand my knowledge on Public Policy. This Fall, I will be gaining experience on fiscal policy analysis as a Borst Fellow at the Indiana Senate. I am extremely excited to observe and learn from the various aspects of legislation at the heart of Indiana state government.
I am an ethnically Malaysian-Filipino, Hong Kong native, international graduate student, aiming to pursue a career in policy analysis and research. Perhaps now is when I am finally paving my way into a life where I am confident in my purpose and sense of identity in this world.
Resources for International Students:
Office of International Affairs IUPUI- https://international.iupui.edu/index.html