As a Child of Immigrant Parents...
by Sue Kim
To be an immigrant is to be “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.”* I do not dispute this widely accepted definition. Yet, the experience of being an immigrant goes beyond the physical move from one country to the next. To a child of an immigrant like me, the term “immigrant” evokes so much more.
Unfamiliarity. For my parents, who are both from the Republic of South Korea, Western culture was a foreign concept for them. Korea is drastically different in culture, size, and customs. Upon arrival in the United States, they had to relearn the basic conventions of society. Their original language and even the basics of what was acceptable and not acceptable in society that they knew – these were minimally useful in a society that, for the most part, upholds Western standards.
Sacrifice. My family is the only one in our extended family to be in the United States. My parents had to suppress their longing for their own mothers and fathers, their siblings, their friends – any sense of familiarity – to be in a completely foreign environment. Even in a home, they were stuck longing for home.
Devotion. My dad brought our family to a foreign country for the possibility of a better life. For the past sixteen years, my parents have toiled through work environments that are still tinged with a hint of unfamiliarity and require them to use their second language, all for the benefit of my sisters and me. Like many immigrant parents, they do this not out of desire to improve their own lives, but to provide their children with the life they never had. Work tires them but they still work tirelessly, a testament to the affection and devotion they hold for our family.
Strength. Yet through all these hardships, my parents are most positive people I have met. They are never discouraged – only determined to find a solution to any difficulty or problem that may arise. They have no other choice but to solve whatever is blocking their abilities to succeed. If they are unable to, there is nowhere or no one to turn to. My parents are extremely resourceful and resilient in their nature, for the sake of their and our future.
Being raised under these conditions has undoubtedly shaped the perspective I hold. My parents’ identities as thriving immigrants are ingrained into me – the success I have is not only my own, but my parents’ as well, as they provided the foundation for me to flourish from.
From my immigrant parents, I learned to appreciate the fact that I have two cultures to completely immerse myself in. From my immigrant parents, I learned to set my goals exceptionally high, and that if I continually rise to those goals, everything will somehow work its way out. From my immigrant parents, I learned that no matter what others say or think about me, it’s truly on me to set my own future. From my immigrant parents, I learned that not much is as daring as moving to a completely different country.
Author Amy Chua, in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, inquires and explains, “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.” Indeed, I take my parents’ accented English as a sign of bravery – it takes courage to experience what immigrants do. For that, I am and will always be proud to be the child of immigrant parents.
*courtesy of Google dictionary