It was spring 2009, my father had just come back from a trip to the United States. He came to my grandparents’ house for dinner, excited to tell us all about his time oversea. After dinner, he was eager to show me the pictures he took during his trip, enthusiastically explaining each photo. “You see how great this is? The universities in the U.S. look like public parks, anyone could jus walk in. See this professor, he’s walking his dog on campus!” At this time, my brother was already going to school in Southern California. I was 15, going to a local middle school in China, never travelled abroad, living in a bubble that was comprised of family and friends. My dad on the other hand, is not a typical strict Chinese parent. He encouraged me to pursue other extracurricular activities, but never forced me into anything I was unwilling to participate in. However, it still caught me by surprise when he asked me if I wanted to study abroad in the States, like my brother was at the time. Frankly, I was looking for an escape from the live at the time. The opportunity presented itself, and I was ready to take it without hesitation. So I told my dad, yes.
As I was preparing the paperwork and applications for the high school I was planning to attend as well as the student visa, it had occurred to me that I was in need of an English name. Choosing an English name was almost essential for the Chinese students who were going to study abroad in the U.S., a must on the checklist of things to do alongside packing your clothes, at least so I thought at the time. At the time, the English names I was exposed to mostly came from my English textbook, names like Sam and Amy. Unsatisfied with the limited options, I decided to search on t...
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...n, even though I choose to use my English name sometimes for convenience, I understand that for many change their names to express who the really are, whether it’s their gender or other identities.
As Gloria Anzaldúa (2015) has suggested, the process of writing itself is empowering, and that narrating one’s experience is difficult yet validating (p. 163). Writing about my personal story enabled me to take a closer look at an aspect of my identity that I am often uncomfortable discussing. I never got the chance to ask my grandfather why he chose this name for me. He passed away a couple years ago. As Juliet said to Romeo, “What 's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” Yet a name is more than a string of symbols and character, it implies personal identity and family heritage, that any other name will not have the same meaning.
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