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Asian American students at IU discuss life during the COVID-19 pandemic in online series



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The Asian Culture Center is located at 807 E. 10th St. IDS file photo

The Asian Culture Center at IU partnered with the Filipino American Association to host “Subtle and Not So Subtle Asian Expectations,” an online interactive series about the pressures and stereotypes attributed to Asian Americans. Sarah Stamey, program associate of the ACCprogram associate, and Daisy Anspach, a counselor for Counseling and Psychological Services, led the discussion Thursday over Zoom. 

During the event, students were invited to speak on their experiences with racial expectations, and how those experiences have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students began by making a word cloud, a list of words related to a given topic, of the words they felt best described their lives during quarantine and now during the fall semester. 

One of the words that dominated the screen was "TikTok," the popular video-based social media platform. Many students said it was a way to reduce boredom during quarantineand stay in contact with friends and family. 

The word cloud also included words such as “career” and “schooling”. The COVID-19 pandemic affected students' plans for educational and career development, and one student expressed the stress she felt when her summer internships and opportunities to job shadow were canceled. 

Students also reported turning down invitations to in-person hangouts with friends to reduce their risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission.  

Junior Alyssa Wang said she stays in contact with friends and family digitally by using FaceTime and texting. 

“Communication has been the biggest thing, and I’ve been getting closer to the people I really care about,” she said. “Checking in on my friends has been helping me cope because we’ve all been going through something.” 

Students said anxiety was also common. 

“We do well with evaluating risks but not with ambiguity,” Stamey said. “Will there be a vaccine, or will there not be? We have no timeline.” 

Sophomore Jolina Sta Romana said she copes with the anxiety and stress by taking time to focus on herself.

“I’ve taken this time to focus on personal growth, and I’ve been checking in on all my friends, spending time outside and focusing on school,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to seek the value in being alone.”

When Wang and Sta Romana were asked about any pressure they feel as Asian American students, Wang made it clear that, though her parents want her to succeed, they do so by supporting and guiding her. She also said their expectations haven’t slackened or hardened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “They just want to support me,” she said. “Because of that, the pressure hasn’t changed.”

Sta Romana saidher parents had a similar mindset. 

“My parents aren’t traditional Asian parents,” she said. “They just want me to succeed and offer a lot of support. They’re great.” 

Both students made it clear, though, they were only speaking for themselves. 

“I want to add as a disclaimer that I don’t want to speak on behalf of all Asian Americans, just tell my unique experience being one,” Wang said. 

The event allowed students to vent and share their experiences in a safe and welcoming environment. The ACC plans to host more “Subtle and Not So Subtle Asian Expectations” events in the future, though they are not yet scheduled, with the next covering xenophobia and its effect on Asian Americans. 

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