Being an Asian American in Uganda

No one in my family has ever traveled to Africa. Most of the friends I grew up with were never able to travel to such a faraway place, so I found this trip amazing. I found Uganda such a privilege because traveling is something many people cannot afford. Being a low-income college student never in my life I thought I would be able to travel to the African continent.

As an Asian student, I was able to have a unique experience because there were not that many of us outside of the program. It was a complete culture shock for me. Growing up in San Francisco, I have always grown up with people who looked like me so being part of this reminded me of what it was like to be a minority.  This reminded me of the privileges I had from growing up in a diverse background. There were some locals here, that were not used to seeing Asian Americans and they had many questions for me.

Some of the most common questions people had were where I was from. While walking around town some folks liked to yell, “Japan,” “Korea,” or “Philippines”  while my peers and I were walking around Kabale. Some people liked to speak Mandarin to me which I thought was kind of cool. I don’t speak Mandarin but it’s nice to see that there are some locals who want to make an effort to help people who speak Mandarin feel included.

It’s important to remember when traveling to a new place to keep an open mind and to erase the stereotypes we have about each other. For example, when growing up in the United States I learned that Africa was one place. When coming here I was reminded that we all come from different places and that some people may have assumptions about me but we have to keep an open channel for dialogue.

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