Art by Vivian Hsia
San Jose, Calif., is home to 382,815 Asian Americans, according to Data Commons.
It’s rare in the United States that the Asian minority would overtake the white majority, according to South China Morning Post.
The comfortable sense of familiarity at my high school made growing up in the melting pot that was the United States feel so welcoming. I grew up with friends and colleagues who experienced the same things as I did, for the most part.
The occasional Asian Tiger Mom outburst of not completing your homework in time, celebrating traditions like the Mid-Autumn Festival and going to Chinese Sunday school were all critical parts of my childhood.
I felt right at home in San Jose, and most importantly, I felt like I belonged. In my experience, the closest groups of friends form from shared experiences, and there’s nothing quite like the Asian American community in the Bay Area.
Growing up with people who have the same experiences as me meant I had people I could relate to. A sea of Asians were surrounding me, and facing every grueling day of high school with my people made life just a bit easier.
The best part? The closest boba shop was a five-minute walk from campus, and I had at least three options and people to go with.
Fast-forward to fall 2021, I moved to Malibu to start a new journey. The culture shock that greeted me was evident — there wasn’t an Asian American in sight.
Instead, a sea of blonde hair and blue eyes surrounded me.
There are only 218 Asian Americans in Malibu as of 2022, according to the LA Times.
At Pepperdine, it wasn’t much better.
The University is 49.4% white and 12.2% Asian, according to Seaver College.
In the newsroom, I was often one of the few Asian Americans on the sports staff. This inspired me to start an Asian American Journalist Association student chapter at Pepperdine, but it wasn’t enough.
That was my first real wake-up call. I had transitioned from one bubble to another, and I still haven’t figured out how to pop that bubble.
The worst part? The closest boba shop was a 30-minute drive to Santa Monica, Calif. — no, the campus boba introduced in fall 2022 doesn’t count.
I struggled dealing with the fact I was in a different environment for the longest time. I couldn’t find many people to relate to, and with my already-introverted nature, fitting in was a dream at best.
I tried joining clubs on campus, such as the Chinese Theater Club — but it didn’t really lead anywhere. I appreciated the people I met and the connections I made, but it just wasn’t the same as San Jose.
I felt isolated — alone in my own trapped world. I couldn’t grasp the fact I was no longer back home.
Then, I discovered Koinonia Campus Mission.
I heard great things about the club through my friends, but was hesitant to try it out at first. But, this year was different, and I wanted to challenge myself as much as possible.
So, I rushed in the doors of Stauffer Chapel ahead of the first general meeting Sept. 13., already late and panicking because of the fear of missing out.
When I finally checked in, I was taken aback by the scene — a group of Asian Americans in this small pocket on campus, praising the Lord and singing Gospel music on a Tuesday night.
I’m not a Christian — but I’d like to think I’m an open-minded individual. So, I nervously went to an open seat and tried my best to sing along.
I felt like I belonged and had finally found my group.
This wasn’t because this group was only Asian Americans, it was because they had something in common — shared experiences that can only build on friendship.
I stood throughout the entire meeting, and although I was disappointed to find out I missed the deadline for dinner after the meeting, it was promising enough for me to come back a second time.
It took time for me to build those new relationships, but I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and cherish the community KCM offers.
I made sure to sign up for the next outing, and the next and the next. I was extremely nervous, since I wasn’t sure if I would even fit in. I’m still not quite sure if I do, if I’m being honest, but I’m making the effort — bursting out of the bubble that is Pepperdine and Malibu.
After a year of struggling to fit into this new life, and with only a couple of months remaining in my collegiate years, I want to experience everything Pepperdine has to offer.
Yes, it was difficult assimilating to Pepperdine, especially as a transfer and as an Asian American — and quite frankly, it still is. But, I’m trying to make the most of it, and so far, it’s been going OK.
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Contact Jerry Jiang via Twitter ( @j_jiang30 ) and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org