Ethnicity is a way of defining, differentiating, and organizing around a shared awareness of the common ancestry of socially distinct groups of individuals, such as language, culture, religion, or nationality. It can shape community and identity, as well as can mobilize “like-minded” people into action for gaining social, political, and cultural interests. I am Mainland Indian. Since that is about a billion people, I have to add a lot more details. I would say that I am Western Indian. However, that is still not enough because it does not specify my personal identity. Ahmedabad is an important part of my identity because I was born in Ahmedabad. My parents and I can speak its local dialect. Simply put, my ethnicity is Western Indian and Gujarati. Also, I can speak English and Hindi and I am a Hindu.
It is the first step that costs troublesome. As an Indian student first coming to New Jersey, USA for living my rest of the life, it was quite challenging to quickly adapt to my new life because of culture shock. To me, language barrier was a hard issue. As the language obstacle progressively became my hardship on a regular basis, I believed that in order to get over the language barrier, improving English while learning Spanish at high school should have been given top priority. After arriving in New Jersey, I lived at an apartment with my family, which was far from the downtown area.
I did repeatedly miss my teachers, classmates, friends, and relatives in India. At that moment, the happiest time of day was to sit in front of my laptop, talking with my parents and friends through the Internet. Furthermore, the alien environment of New Jersey Institute of Technology campus was another major obstacle to me. As a freshman, I often got lost on campus, having difficulty finding the way to classrooms and accessing to a variety of facilities.
Ethnicity is like a personal identity, referring to his or her own “sense of belonging to or identification with a group or tradition over time, based on commonalities with similar others. SANSKAR (Indian student association) did make me feel a strong sense of belonging by providing far more services to help all freshmen from India rapidly get used to the new life. I was so happy that I got to know many senior students who enjoyed sharing with me their experiences on how to overcome the setbacks they had ever encountered, as well as on how to adjust to the new environment with the new students.
From sharing their experiences, I learned how to well communicate with my peers and how to develop my interpersonal skills. I believed that these invaluable skills might help me greatly hinder dependence on my parents. My first month at NJIT went smoothly. With the help of those senior students, I gradually adapted to my new life by helping me improve English, overcome homesickness, and familiarize campus. Moreover, SANSKAR launched interesting activities in order to enrich each Indian student’s off-campus life. My friends and I did participate in some meaningful activities.
Like SANSKAR, Jersey City Indian square (Little India) can be another home for me. I always spend my spare time going there with friends. As soon as I get there, I do have a strong sense of community. Although Jersey City Indian square is small, its physical landscape is perfectly in response to urban development and the growing success of the Indian community formation in New Jersey. These days, Jersey City Indian square, which is located at the center of many Indian social and cultural organizations, does perform a number of significant functions.
Besides, the majority of Indian and foreign population in New Jersey enjoys going to Indian square to purchase some delicious food and some delicate souvenirs, gifts, accessories, or even handmade articles. In addition, Jersey City Indian square annually hosts the celebration of Indian festivals and also American festivals. I often go there for watching an Indian dance during the Indian New year, admiring lanterns and traditional Indian dances during the Mid-Autumn Festival, or getting green fortune cookies for St. Patrick’s Day.
Since I am in a White-dominated society, as a member of minority group, I have to internalize the values of the dominant society. However, showing respect to life not only is a common ideology for everyone, but also is a rationale for minimizing and eradicating inequality, privilege, oppression, and marginalization.