This is my story at a critical juncture of my life. Looking back at my 25 years on this planet as a person, a daughter, a friend, a student, a team player, a leader, an introvert, a traveler, a teacher, a postgraduate, and now an unemployed youth who doesn’t know what to do next, I can’t help but to wonder what is my worth?
If you know me, I’m a pretty easy-going person who loves traveling, polar bears, and sourdough loaves with salted butter. I’m also a museum fanatic, adore watching horror movies, and rock along to alternative music. If you’ve worked with me, you’d know that I’m a meticulous planner who is always ready to learn, unlearn and relearn. With this curiosity, I’ve joined conferences, trainings, workshops and internships from almost all corners of the world. Plus, I grew up across Bangkok, Beijing and Singapore, where I spent most of my formative years.
My multicultural upbringing certainly exposed me to a range of languages, cultures as well as perspectives that guide me to perceive the world in a different light. It seems like I’ve got my life figured out. But in reality, I don’t. I still have so many unanswered questions laying ahead, and I don’t even know if I’m able to answer some of them. On a more positive note, I’m living in the moment while anticipating my next ‘big break’.
A wise person once said that the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. Coincidentally, the past two years have been full of changes — some good, some not so good. In 2019, I graduated from my bachelor’s, went to South Korean for two months, and flew to China in September to start my master’s degree. Then COVID-19 happened. In autumn 2020, I started my second master’s at UCL.
I was eager to gain knowledge in a new but related field of public policy, but it soon became clear that I didn’t exactly fit the program’s student profile. I lacked the public sector experience that many of my course mates had. Despite interning in ASEAN-based NGOs and government agencies, I couldn’t leverage these experiences to participate in Eurocentric discussions around New Public Management, civil society and the like. This was when my imposter syndrome hit an all-time high. Plus, Zoom classes when you’re seven hours ahead of the UK made things even more challenging. But after ten months, I finally arrived in London this June.
While living in a new country (and exploring British museums) is exciting, the struggles of being a third culture individual can become overwhelming, especially under the current political climate. I dread it when people ask me where I’m from simply because I don’t know how to respond. Is the answer based on my passport, my ethnicity, or my identity? What if I answered “I’m from Earth.”?
I couldn’t help but think that I made the wrong choice to study in the UK — the tuition is incredibly expensive too. Or I’m just not as good as other people, and maybe I’ll never be able to catch up. I was mummified by this cloud of uncertainty and it felt like I was drowning.
However, one thing is for sure. I’ve already perfected the skill of ignoring people who mutter ‘Go back to China!’ Even now I still keep myself up at night wondering why the color of my skin or the shape of my eyes can be the subject of such hatred. Not to mention some derogatory stereotypes towards people from my country. I couldn’t help but think that I made the wrong choice to study in the UK — the tuition is incredibly expensive too. Or I’m just not as good as other people, and maybe I’ll never be able to catch up. I was mummified by this cloud of uncertainty and it felt like I was drowning.
In moments like this, it’s difficult to maintain a positive mindset. It’s difficult to not be affected by such comments and doubt your worth. It’s difficult to understand why you try so hard but you’re still not part of the conversation. Most of all, it’s difficult to understand things like discrimination and exclusion because in today’s world, they shouldn’t make sense. So I’ve come to realize that I’m not the one who’s to blame. Because it is also exactly in moments like this where the WYA Certified Training Program’s lessons about human dignity pull me through.
No matter what happens, I remain a dignified human person who is worthy of respect. I am not an object to be used, devalued or compared to. And most importantly, I know that my value and worth as a person does not diminish based on how others may perceive me. Moreover, I have the potential to choose to act with kindness, and to use my Freedom for Excellence to inspire those around me to pursue what is good — for I am worthy and so are you.
Published: Sept. 6, 2021
This blog entry was written by WYA Asia Pacific Regional Intern Alumna Suthida Chang.
Interested to take part in a WYA Asia Pacific Internship? Visit bit.ly/aponlineinternship today!