Student Reflections - Richa Pokhrel

Reflections on Race and Ethnicity

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Richa. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Iowa I spent a year studying in Manchester, England. I decided to go to England because it was close to some of my relatives and also because University of Manchester was a school that I was interested in. It was a great year, not only did I learn a lot about myself but I also learned a lot of a different cultures.

In America, I would identify myself as Asian American. I was born in Nepal but spent most of my life in America. I have also lived in Iowa most of my life and let’s just say that there aren’t many South Asians in Iowa. Fortunately, I grew up in the Iowa City area so a lot of people knew about Nepal and were curious to know about it more.

I knew that England had lots of people that were of South Asian descent but there were a lot more than I imagined. I guess I was a little overwhelmed in the beginning; I had never been around so many people that looked similar to me. It was kind of weird not having people be curious about me anymore. What I found more interesting was that I related to being more from America than being from Nepal, people were more interested in knowing my American background than knowing about my Nepalese background.

Currently, I have been spending one year in Japan teaching English. The situation here is completely different. People associate me as being Nepalese. They always ask questions about Nepal and barely talk about America. I told them that I just lived 7 years there but they want to know small details that even I don’t know. Whenever I have to talk about my country, they always ask so how is Japan different from Nepal. I try to reinforce the fact that I grew up in America and consider my home to be in America. Sometimes that fact gets dismissed. I was a little scared to come to Japan at first because there isn’t much diversity here and I wasn’t sure what people would think of me. But I was warmly welcomed in my small town and people have not treated me any differently than my white peers. In both places, I never felt out of place, most people were very friendly.

I have learned a great deal about myself from these two experiences. Not only am I from Nepal but I am also from America. Being in Japan has made me embrace my Nepalese culture more but I also appreciate being from America. My identity as an Asian American remains and I have learned not to be scared of who I am. I have values and ideas that are rooted in both cultures. I am not going to lie and say that sometimes I didn’t get confused, I did and I still do but these things are bound to happen. I just know that I am proud to be me, no matter what color I am, no matter my sexuality or gender, I am lucky enough to have lived in two places and I am not ashamed of my identity.

Best wishes on your journey,

Richa Pokhrel