Tag Archives: immigration

Language and Identity

By Sara Malik

Recently, I was asked about my ability to speak my parent’s language and the conversation led to a discussion about my relationship to my parent’s culture. I immediately wanted to explain all of the layers, the reasons why I do not speak my parent’s native language fluently and how it is not born out of embarrassment or dislike, but mostly out of lack of confidence and practice. My parents are from Pakistan, a country born out of a split from India with a religious foundation in Islam. I was born in the United States of America, a country with no singular identity, with core values of individuality and freedom.

My parents speak Urdu and Punjabi, two languages with their own cultural contexts and attitudes, but both spoken in Pakistan. While I was growing up, my parents would speak to me in Urdu at home, but would not expect me to respond in the same language, so I responded in English instead. I grew up learning words and phrases from both Urdu and Punjabi, being able to understand the language when spoken to, but being unable to respond with confidence in my pronunciation. Even around my Pakistani-American friends in our local community, I would be told that I had an American accent when speaking Urdu, or that I was the “least Desi” out of the bunch. “Desi” is a term used by people from the Indian subcontinent, from countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc., as a means of collectively identifying via our similar cultures. “Desi” should be an inclusive term, but somehow, I was not “cultured” enough, or did not speak the language well enough to feel as though I was a part of that community.

Growing up with this feeling of being too American to fit into my parent’s culture, but not American enough to fit into the culture of my peers at school, resulted in a sort of blurred and unclear identity. There are parts that fit and parts that don’t. In America, children of immigrants navigate these complex layers of our identity as we develop our own beliefs and values while also remaining connected to our parents heritage. We want to be able to connect with those with similar backgrounds, but also want to belong as Americans. We want to participate in normal American pastimes like school dances and sports games, but we also want to retain the traditions, food, clothing and culture of our parents. It is a balancing act that we do not realize is happening until we are older and able to reflect. 

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Exploring Migration in the EU   

By Arianna Babraj

Photo by Ministerio de Defensa on Flickr

This summer, I am spending six weeks in Paris, France, where I am taking a Public Policy in the European Union course through the American University of Paris. I have been in Paris for 3 weeks now and I am so grateful for all of my experiences and for all of the amazing people that I have met here thus far. I selected this course because I saw that it would cover migration in the EU, a concept which interests me given recent events. Since being here, we have talked about models of integration and governance, citizenship, and the concept of belonging for specific groups within Europe, like Roma and refugee populations.

After I finish this course, I will be traveling throughout Italy to conduct independent research on people’s opinions of immigrants in light of the recent elections. While I have been here in Paris, I have kept up with the current situation in Italy. The most alarming event thus far has been the newly elected government’s choice to begin turning NGO boats carrying immigrants in life threatening situations away from Italian ports. During the same period, we have seen the US immigration policy take a dark turn with the President’s decision to separate families at the border.

Unfortunately, more and more countries, particularly within the EU, are choosing to close doors instead of open them. Politicians with anti-immigration stances often ignore the positive impacts that immigrants have had on their countries, economically and otherwise, and, instead, push rhetoric fueled by emotional reactions related to isolated cases that show immigrants in a negative light, resolutely bypassing statistics that display the positive impacts because these facts negate their wayward position.

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