Category Archives: Immigration

Soy Sauce spaghetti and Butterfly Migration: Growing Up as a Second Generation American

By Jacqueline Tran

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

My Grandpa, or “goong goong” – the Cantonese phrase for Grandfather – was a chef and grew up in Hong Kong. He obtained citizenship and immigrated with his family to the United States because of his cooking abilities, which makes me a second generation American. As a result, my family traditions have always been a unique blend of classic Asian dishes and holidays mixed with American traditions. One of these traditions is a soy sauce spaghetti dish my grandfather made all the time when I was younger. The ingredients include green onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spaghetti noodles, chicken base, ketchup, salt, oil, sugar, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. My sisters and I loved it, and it satisfied my other second generation cousins’ tastes too. Thinking about this dish makes me aware that my taste is made up of not only my ethnicity, personality, and family, but also the generation that I was born in.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Being a second generation American has allowed me to live as an American while hearing first hand accounts of growing up in another culture from both of my parents. I’ve heard stories about what it was like in Vietnam to eat raw mangoes with fish sauce- before they got ripe, so the animals wouldn’t get to them first- and what it was like to grow up there during the Vietnam war. I’ve heard what it was like for my Chinese grandparents to immigrate from China, with uncertainty and the drive to create more opportunities for their children.

There is a poet and artist named Morgan Harper Nichols, who writes: “Lessons from Monarch Butterfly Migration…Because the lifespan of the monarch butterfly is only a few weeks, it actually takes multiple generations to finally make it back to the north…The monarch butterfly is a reminder of what it means to pave the way. To carry on on a journey that you might not actually live to see the end of.” After reading this, I wondered what events would happen in the future because of the way I live my life now-at school, at work, or with friends. I recognized that I am like the monarch butterfly who makes it to the north (or in this case America) to live the American dream. I attend a university in the United States and get to study for opportunities that weren’t available to the generations before me. I’m a student at USC because of what my grandparents and parents have worked for. I am living the life I am because of ancestors I’ll never know.

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Advice from an International Student to International Students

By Erik He

When I first arrived in America, I was hit with a tremendous wave of anxiety. It’s finally happening, I thought to myself, I’m finally here. I still remember waiting in line in LAX, making sure I had all the proper forms and visas. Will I make friends? What if I don’t fit in because I was a Spring Admit? What if the classes are extremely difficult? These thoughts swirled around my head. I was lucky to have my parents come with me, and the first thing we went to see was the university (fun fact: I’ve never even been in California before studying at USC). 

Now, in my senior year, whenever I meet another international student I know exactly how they feel. The uncertainty mixed with giddy excitement can be overwhelming, especially the first couple of months here. International students are placed in a sticky situation, because sometimes their accents or mannerisms may hinder their ability to make friends (I was in this situation, and I know how intimidating it can be to talk to an “American”). However, I realized that most of this was all in my head. My friends didn’t mind helping me with small grammar errors or teaching me the social norms here, and soon my fears dissipated. It’s easiest to find shelter in communities we are familiar with, but I’d like to encourage anyone in college to find people or activities that push them out of their comfort zone. 

Before coming here, I had the privilege of living in many different countries. From the United Arab Emirates to Sweden, home has become more of an abstract concept than a physical place. Initially, I hated the constant moving, and I never made close friends because we always moved after a couple years. But as I grew older I found solace in traveling, and in place of having close consistent friends were fresh new perspectives from different people. I constantly had my opinions and values challenged, and I loved every second of it. This helped me adjust to the way Los Angeles was, as to me it seemed like a battleground rife with clashing opinions, especially in today’s sociopolitical climate. But I believe that’s what college is for, for people to voluntarily confront ideas they aren’t necessarily comfortable with in order to see things from a different perspective. Whether you end up agreeing or not is irrelevant, but communicating, listening, and understanding helps one to grow as a person. As a filmmaker, I dig deep into my experiences to find ways to tell compelling stories, and the mantra I chose to embed in all my works is: “we are more similar than we are different”. This helped me stay civil and objective in my quest to learn, and from the ignorant to the wise, I find that any conversation can be fruitful if you go in it with the correct mindset. Good luck! As one international student to another, challenge yourself and grow!

Featured image from GotCredit.com

Erik is a senior studying film and television production. He grew up in various countries around the world, having lived in Beijing, Guangzhou, Montreal, Malmo, New Jersey, and Dubai. He spent most of his childhood in the United Arab Emirates, where he and many other expats studied in an IB high school. As Erik is also an international student, he knows how difficult it is to adapt to a new culture and language. Erik loves foreign movies, and directors such as Jia Zhangke, Wong Kar Wai, Asghar Farhadi, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Gaspar Noe are some of his favorites. In his spare time Erik likes to practice playing guitar, hanging out with friends or drawing. Erik can speak moderately fluent mandarin and a little bit of Arabic and Swedish.