Asians, Asian Americans say they get along

Tim Paluch

Editor’s note: This story is the last in a four-part series on relations at Iowa State among people classified in the same racial group.

Asian Americans and international Asian students have some obvious cultural differences, but students say these differences usually don’t cause any problems between the two groups on campus.

Tao Liu, graduate student in civil and construction engineering from China, said Asian Americans live in a whole different place with a whole different culture.

“They still keep some of the Asian culture, but they change a lot,” he said. “They seem to like American food more, and they usually don’t speak the Asian language of their country.”

Jaein Lim, graduate assistant in electrical and computer engineering from Korea, said despite cultural and language differences, no real problems exist between the groups.

“Asians have the background of their own country. American Asians were born around here and educated around here. That’s why they have that different background,” said Lim, president of the Korean Student Association. “But this doesn’t cause any problems between us, because everyone already understands those differences are there.”

Having both groups educate each other about their respective cultures eliminates most problems, Lim said.

“We try to get everyone to learn about each other, so there is not much of a problem because of that,” he said.

Asian-American students on campus said they recognize the barrier existing between them and international Asians.

Phut Hoang Van, freshman in pre-computer science from Des Moines, said she understands why there is that barrier.

“International students usually stick together, probably because they can relate to each other, and probably because they can speak their own language,” she said. “Asian Americans have a lot in common, too, just because we are American and speak English and all that other stuff.”

Hoang Van said she thinks people tend to relate best with people who understand their point of view.

“I guess it’s that comfort zone everyone has,” she said. “That’s normal, and everybody goes through it, no matter what heritage you are.”

Xuan-Nhi Cao, freshman in computer engineering from Sioux City, said she thinks the relationship between the two groups is a good one.

“We get along fine, and most of my friends are from across the sea,” said Cao, a member of the Vietnamese Student Association and Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition. “Anytime there is an event, all Asian students, international or American, come out to them.”

Cao said when APAAC had Asian Heritage Week, international Asian groups were invited to help out and set up booths.

“It seems they’re always willing to help,” she said.

The new president of APAAC, David Lee, said he thinks the relationship can improve between Asian Americans and international Asians.

“Right now, I think it’s pretty weak,” said Lee, freshman in pre-business from Peoria, Ill. “I honestly don’t think there is that big of a correlation between the two.”

Lee said the vast differences in the cultural backgrounds of the two groups sometimes make it hard to bring groups together.

“I don’t think we have the same interests, that’s the big thing,” he said. “They are international. They like to talk with their own language.”

Lee said next year as APAAC president, he hopes to create more of a unity between the Asian races on campus, which won’t be easy.

“It’s a hard task – it’s really hard to understand the complexity of the subject,” he said. “Everybody views Asians as one whole race, but Chinese and Vietnamese are as different as Spanish and English.