Sunday, November 14, 2010


I get approached for advice every so often by people who are going to study or work abroad, and there's one main piece of advice that I always pass on no matter where the person is going, no matter why they're going there ... need to keep in mind that whether you like it or not, you'll be representin'.

It's a big responsibility and it's not meant to cramp your style or spoil your fun, but you have to remember that you're going to be representing where you come from, your school, and any number of other things.  For example, wherever I go, I'm representing Canada, I'm representing Chinese people, I'm representing Hong Kong, I'm representing Chinese people who grew up in Canada, I'm representing my demographic of third culture kids, I used to represent my home university when I was an exchange student...

It's a lot, and I didn't consciously sign up for it, and moreover - it's a lot of things I don't necessarily have the best authority to be talking about.  It doesn't matter that I know nothing about Chinese international relations or governmental policies because I grew up in Canada - when people see my face, they see my race first and they will assume things and ask questions.  All I can do is do my best to answer.

Most importantly you have to remember that the way you behave will reflect upon everything you represent.  I might be the only Canadian someone here may ever meet, so they might think that all Canadians are like me.  Whether I endear myself to them or if I am totally unpleasant to them, it will stay with them and they may project that sentiment upon all the groups I'm representing.

That's particularly important if you're thinking of going into international relations.

It also works in a positive way.  For example, when I met Dutchman, he was the only Dutch person I actually knew, but because we were friends and he was so nice, I automatically had a good impression of his entire country and eventually came to develop a soft spot for the Netherlands - so much so that I felt conflicted over who to cheer for during the World Cup this year. :P Also, B³ is really the only Indonesian person I know, but because we're such good friends, I kind of assume that everyone from her country must be as sweet as she is. 

Intelligently I know that it's irrational to think this way, but it's just human nature.  So if you ever decide to go abroad, always keep in mind that you're representin'! :)

1 comment:

Stace said...

So true. The cartoon is cute.
I remember all those questions you said ppl used to ask you about being Chinese. Lol so ridic.
It's because we're visual minorities. If you were a russian but from canada, it would likely prompt less questions...