Andrea K.



Being 18 and moving across the world seems like a lifetime ago. (To be fair – five years does seem like a lifetime if you’re in your early twenties). I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and growing up, I had always aspired to study overseas in the United States. I was fortunate enough to have two older sisters who pursued their studies in the US, as they paved the way to higher education for me. I remember regularly hearing about their adventures in the US while I was growing up and thinking about how I too would follow in their footsteps and move to the United States. Finally, it came time for me to apply to college and I made it! I could not wait to start my new life in the States.

Despite my excitement, I also knew I would miss home terribly. Starting college is a challenging period itself, and on top of that, I had to adjust to a whole new culture and country. My excitement was soon overshadowed by extreme homesickness. There aren’t many Malaysians here in the US, and I felt very alone in that especially during my freshman year. I deeply missed the community I had and found it difficult to connect with others who grew up so differently from me. I never was aware of my own accent until people I met in college pointed it out to me, and I remember feeling inferior to my other American classmates who seemed to be having the time of their lives in college whereas I was struggling so much and missing my family.

I was desperate to find that sense of community that I had throughout my whole life, and I ended up getting involved with Asian-American clubs on my college campus. I was never really aware of my own ‘Asian-ness’ having grown up surrounded by Asians, until college, and did not expect to have the next four years of my life revolve around being Asian. Although I did not and still do not identify as being American, I was able to make meaningful connections with many people from these clubs throughout college.

I also really wanted to share my Malaysian culture with others, considering that almost everyone I met in college barely knew anything about Malaysia. I joined the eboard of my college’s Asian Student Union for this reason – there wasn’t a Malaysian specific club for me (which makes sense as I could count the number of Malaysians I met throughout my whole four years on less than one hand). I wanted to contribute to building a space where others who felt unrepresented could share their cultures too. These friendships and experiences I gained helped me cope with m\y homesickness all throughout college – though I will never stop missing Malaysia, I was lucky to have found a second home in my Asian-American community in college.