Home in the world
Someone once asked me: "What is the first thing you think of when you think of your identity?". My answer was “race”, which came across as a surprising response to many people. Coming from a developing* country and living in a developed* country, where people who look like me are in the minority, I began to form a sense of my identity in contrast with the rest: I am what others are not.
My early exposure to issues of humanities and social justice fuelled my passion for pursuing an education in this field, although it was an unpopular choice for many people. While it opened up new horizons, I often found myself quite lonely in the intersection of the choices that I made. When I gave “race” as a response, some people thought there were better things to define oneself beyond race—things like hobbies and talents, some questioned why minority individuals were always making such a fuss about their race, while others saw it as trivial, unimportant.
Our perceptions of the world are shaped by different threads of our lives. Perhaps that is why it is difficult for people to find a common voice even when they share a background. Take attending university, for example. For some, it is a gateway not only to acquiring knowledge but also to immersing oneself in an environment where intellectuals converge, talents are sought after by companies, and the prestige of attending an elite institution leaves an indelible mark on one's resume. It is about taking the first glimpse behind that closed door of opportunities and social mobility for those who never had it. For others, education is a commodity, and students—especially international students—a lucrative market to be exploited. Pay up, or leave.
So yes, the quest for equality can be lonesome, because not everyone sympathizes with it. That, however, doesn’t make it any less important. The key is to find the people who understand how to build a community around a common cause.
In the movie Tinker Bell, each fairy was born with a mission. There were garden fairies, animal fairies, water fairies, and so on. Tinker Bell was a "tinker" fairy who possessed a dexterous brain for tinkering with tools, crafting and fixing things. She tried to be like the other fairies, blooming flowers, shaping water and playing with animals, but that was never who she was. In similar veins, I believe that each of us has a unique mission in life. And while we are alone in our own uniqueness, wandering in a world of differences, it is what makes us so vital, so important.
I personally have found that I can use my individual talents by working for Digital Moment, a Canadian charity that mobilizes communities towards a better future through digital education. It strives to make the world a better place by giving everyone a fair shot at education. If, like me, you find yourself stuck in that gradient space between two worlds, I wish that you—immigrants, children of immigrants, international students, refugees—find a community of people who understands and speaks your language, a home where worlds collide.
*These terms are used to solely describe the economic and industrial attributes of the economies and by no means imply judgments in any broader sense of the corresponding countries nor its people.