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Christopher Wijaya Tan

English 133
Dr. Jason Peters

Overcoming Barriers

I am an American born Chinese, Indonesian, and American boy who has three cultures

constantly in conflict with each other. I always felt I didn’t belong to a specific place. My

parents have gone through a lot to get to where they are and they inspired me, taught me,

and pushed me to learn how to speak, read, and write both in English and Indonesian. My

mother learned English later in college and she struggled a lot, so ever since I could

remember my mother have been pushing me to study English and talk in it as much as

possible. It’s weird that now I’m in college, my everyday language is English and now I’m

trying to speak Indonesian as much as I could.

Ever since I was in grade 6, I moved out to Indonesia because my parents had to go back to

Indonesia for work. Indonesia has a special culture that is heavily influenced by the Muslim

religion as it is the number one country with the highest Muslim population. I came to

Indonesia with an accent, of different race, and a different religion. Three major things that

most locals didn’t like. They didn’t like other Asians, especially Chinese, but always seems

fine with people of European American descents. They would disregard us and other

religions as inferior. When going out, I had to interact with the locals as I would often go to

public places and out of town. I was perceived by them with this look that I presume was

the “outsider look” because I sound like an outsider and they would often ignore my

presence. I didn’t like how I was judged based on my race and accent. I had to do something

about the accent and be able to blend in.

Christopher Wijaya Tan
English 133
Dr. Jason Peters

Family is what made me realized that I was apart from everyone else. I first came to my

family in Indonesia as an ‘outsider’. My parents never had trouble fitting in because they

were always a part of their lives while I never knew them. Even though they treated me

with such care, I always felt that there’s something missing. I don’t mind really being an

outsider to the locals but not my family. Indonesian and Chinese culture always had been a

part of their life, where their mother tongue is the Indonesian language. I had to somehow

meet them there in that part of their life and overcome this invisible barrier keeping me

from seeing their life and for them to see me that I was always there in their life.

For me, going to school there was no different than school here because I went to a private

school where English was its first language. In school me and my peers would always mix

both English and Indonesian in our conversation and I could easily blend it, I suppose it just

comes naturally now. It made sense at that point for me to learn Indonesian as a language

and its literature because I was living there. I had a slow transition at first because I didn’t

know how to properly write, spell or understand its vocabulary and grammar but

eventually get the hang of it. I was glad that I wasn’t the only one struggling.

I had to overcome this language and culture barrier and to make them a part of me. I

always thought about how they would judge me by verbal display and I didn’t like that. I

asked my friends to teach me Indonesian slang, I tried copying what they sound, say, and

act. It was no piece of cake at first, but my friends always had my back and were patient

with me as I transition and to my surprise I was starting to sound like a local. As days past, I

was no more a foreigner but a local who lived there for all his life.
Christopher Wijaya Tan
English 133
Dr. Jason Peters

I suppose my environment always consisted of this multilingual mix where it just

constantly bombards me. Culture always played an important role for me,

I always wanted to go back to America for college and when I realized there were so many

requirements that I had to achieve before being able to apply. I wanted to be able to speak

and write more fluently because English is the lingua franca, and everyone communicate

through it. I had a difficult transition at first because everything felt strange and unknown.

I’m in a new environment again for the first time and I just curled up in my own shell.

Half of my life and most of what I remember is that I spent living in another country where

it’s culture and influence has changed me a lot as a person. I always had the same friends

and most of them were Chinese Indonesians, bilingual like me, and now as I enter college I

was profound and dumbfounded by all the difference and change that I’m experiencing

again. Life in college is especially different where all this responsibility is spilled onto you

and that you must live more like an adult. Still have not much clue there. There’s so many

things that I want to explore and experience for myself and be a son that my parents can be

extremely proud of and I suppose those things are what keeps me going everyday

I am still transitioning to life here but as the days goes by it does get easier, maybe just a

little bit.