CSUF workshop focuses on immigrating to the United States as a child

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“Here and There: The 1.5 Generation Experience” workshop Tuesday discussed what it is like to migrate to America at a young age as part of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month.

The term “1.5 generation” was coined by a professor at UCI in the 1960s who was from Cuba and moved to the United States at a young age.

Vy Le, a junior Asian-American studies major, started the workshop by showing “Documentary 1.5 Generation,” which follows a 27-year-old woman named Soyang Bang who moved from South Korea to the United States when she was 9 years old. She shares her experiences finding her identity as a Korean and as an American.

“It’s funny how important it is for me to be here today because when that (video) started, I was like, ‘That’s my story,’” said student retention services counselor Jennifer Baldaray.

Baldaray immigrated from Vietnam in 1975 when she was 9 years old due to the war. However, she said she has only recently heard the term “1.5 generation.”

“In the larger APIDA community, a lot of folks identify with this term ‘1.5 generation’ because of varied migration experiences, whether it be a beautiful migration story, a powerful migration story, one of war and trauma, so it’s not always beautiful,” said Jacob Chacko, the coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Resource Center.

Chacko spoke about his struggles learning the English language during his first day of fourth grade after immigrating to America from India.

“In my very first class, there was a substitute teacher who had no idea what to do with me, so I just ended up taking the spelling quiz on the 50 states. I didn’t even know there were 50 states,” Chacko said. “She said ‘Indiana,’ I heard ‘India’ and so I spelled ‘India’ and they marked it wrong.”

Le recalled learning English at school and trying to speak it at home, only to get in trouble with her parents who wanted her to speak Vietnamese at home.

On the other hand, Connie Martinez, a student who was born in America after her parents immigrated from Guatemala, refused to speak Spanish at home and would get angry at her parents for speaking Spanish at home.

“When you go back home, you face ridicule because you’re American, but when you’re here, you face ridicule because you’re Vietnamese, and it leaves you floating in the middle,” Baldaray said.

The workshop ended with a discussion of how “1.5 generations” can overcome the barriers they have by continuing to have conversations like this workshop and letting people know that the “1.5 generation” exists.

“I think it just gives some people a sense of comfort of being able to identify as something, so if someone doesn’t identify as first or second generation, they might feel like, ‘Oh, then what am I?’ but knowing that there is the ‘1.5’ or ‘1.25’ or ‘1.75’ they can be like, ‘Oh OK, that makes more sense. I can kind of know a little bit more about myself,’” Martinez said.

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