When I first toured Elon University, it seemed like the perfect school. When I arrived here, it almost was. I loved the small class sizes. I had fantastic professors. I enjoyed the courses that I took. I felt like I was growing as a student. I became involved in InterVarsity, so my spiritual needs were provided for. To top it all off, the campus was beautiful. But despite all of the wonderful things Elon offered, I wanted to transfer a month or two into my freshman year.
I’m a first-generation Filipino-American, and I didn’t feel like my ethnic identity was welcomed or supported on Elon’s campus.
I was born and raised in Durham. There were Asian churches, Asian markets and dozens of Asian-owned businesses and restaurants I could go to. Asian residents made up a decent portion of Durham’s population, and with a strong Asian presence on Duke University’s campus, it was impossible to not see groups of Asian students walking around downtown Durham and other areas surrounding Duke’s campus. I also grew up in a family with strong ties to Filipino culture and around other Filipino families in the area.
I took the Asian community in Durham for granted. I didn’t realize how much it mattered to me until I came to Elon. I was frustrated by the lack of an Asian Student Association on campus. I was frustrated by the fact that there weren’t many students who strongly identified as Asian, especially Asian-American students. I was frustrated by the fact that the university didn’t offer courses on Asian-American history. I felt lonely because I was one of the few Filipino students at Elon, and one of the few Asian-Americans.
Even Elon and Burlington didn’t have much to offer. I remember spending a good 30 minutes driving around Burlington in search of an Asian market, only to see that it had been shut down. When I drove back to my dorm, I almost cried. I had no community on campus, and I couldn’t even buy the food that I missed so much. If I wanted to access my culture and my Filipino identity, I knew that I couldn’t do it at Elon. I strongly considered transferring to a school on the West Coast, just so that I wouldn’t have to give up that part of me.
Eventually, I decided that Elon was my home, and Elon was where I was going to stay. I loved academic and religious life on campus, but when it came to cultural life, I fought like hell. I went to conferences for Asian students around the state and visited various Asian culture associations at surrounding colleges. I joined the Asian Studies Club at Elon, and befriended the international Asian students who helped me get through my freshman struggles.
I’m glad to say that incoming Asian and Pacific Islander students at Elon won’t have to experience the loneliness and sadness that I felt as a freshman. I’m the president of the Asian-Pacific Student Association (APSA) at Elon, formerly the Asian Studies Club. Elon now has an organization that will cater to the needs of AAPI-identifying students. AAPIs at Elon can explore their identities, learn about each other’s cultures, attend different cultural events and discuss AAPI-specific issues.
AAPI Phoenix, we see you for who you are. Your ethnicities and cultures are beautiful. We love you. We welcome you. We are here for you. I hope that you’ll become a part of our APSA family because we want every part of you to find a home here at Elon.