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Even strong walls have weaknesses

Four Malvern students shared stories of their experiences in an assembly sponsored by the Diversity Awareness Club on Thursday, April 6.

Take a second to consider the stereotypes we attach to others.

People are social beings. We want to fit in, have friends, and feel as if we are a part of something. It is just a part of human nature. However, “fitting in” and creating that feeling of “being a part of something” is difficult when you are nothing like those who surround you.

So where does that put me, a non-Catholic Asian American student at a Catholic private institution whose student body is predominantly white? I won’t say my experience at Malvern has been extremely difficult, because it really hasn’t. But I also won’t say it’s been a walk in the park, because that would be a lie.

Out of my soon-to-be four years at Malvern Prep, freshman year was the most challenging. It was the start of a new chapter in my life.

Beginning at freshman orientation, I noticed that I was the only completely Asian student in the entire class of 2017. That scared me. I was already a target because I looked different from the rest of the student body.

At the public school system I had been in, I was in the minority as well, but never had I been the only one. It’s a completely different feeling because even at Great Valley, while most of my friends were white, I had a couple Asian friends that I could talk to and relate my experiences to, people who would understand.

At Malvern, that was a luxury I wouldn’t have, and I realized it then. It’s not that I wouldn’t have people there for me and people wouldn’t listen to what I had to say, it’s just that they would not be able to understand. There’s a big difference between listening and actually understanding.

Then there was the religion aspect. My family is not religious. It’s not that we are opposed to religion, we just never attended any services or went to church. It’s how I was raised.

As an Augustinian school, spirituality is essential to what it means to be a student at Malvern Prep. This became one of my greatest worries about attending Malvern. What constantly stressed me out and frightened me was knowing that if and when I messed up, either at a chapel service, a mass, or even a prayer, the eyes of the entire building would turn and stare at me. Even to this day, I still get nervous.

I still remember multiple instances during my freshman year in which I was asked, “If you’re not Catholic, then why are you here?” For such a simple question, I can’t tell you how much that impacted me. Earlier, I touched on the idea of fitting in and feeling a part of something; what that question did was isolate me, set me apart, and make me feel as if I didn’t belong. No matter what answer I gave, I could not avoid the feeling of being judged and looked down upon. Sometimes, I really did wonder what I was doing here, if I really belonged.

A part of my identity that has driven me to become who I am are the stereotypes placed on Asians. Take a second and think about all of the stereotypes.

Every single one looks to either diminish my abilities, ridicule me, or accredit my accomplishments to my racial background. I hate that people make assumptions about who I am because of what I look like. I hate that my academic success is credited to the fact that I’m Asian, not because I care about my work and strive to do my best. Not because only through academics were my parents able to leave everything behind in China to attend school at Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania to provide a better life for their future children.

Over time, the jokes, remarks, and shots have become less hurtful, but even the strongest walls have weaknesses. The feeling of judgement based on my appearance is something I just can’t shake.

That is why my whole life I have looked to disprove those stereotypes. That is why my two proudest accomplishments are having my talent and hard work recognized in getting voted a captain on our varsity baseball team, and getting recruited to play Division III Baseball at Johns Hopkins University. Not only did I want to disprove those stereotypes, I wanted to prove myself.

Something that age has taught me is that it’s hard to be proud of something that acts as a barrier, something that sets you apart. It’s even harder when it’s things that you cannot change, things that are a part of who you are, the same things that open the door to ridicule and judgement.

My work ethic, my achievements, my character, my family, and my life have only been possible due to my diversity. For that, I am extremely proud of the man I have become, the man standing before you today.

About Nick Li

Nick has been a part of the BFC for two years and formerly held the role of Social Media Editor. A Malvern native, Nick is a captain of the baseball team and will be attending and playing for Johns Hopkins University next year. He also is President of the Diversity Awareness Club and participates actively in other clubs.

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