What it was like growing up Asian in Arizona

My childhood was like no other. I am a Chinese America raised in Scottsdale, Arizona. While I was born in Chicago, I have always considered Scottsdale to be my hometown. Even though I live in Atlanta now, Scottsdale will always hold a part of my heart.

Scottsdale is so unique. It is a metropolitan city with desert surroundings. The ground is speckled with cacti and saguaros and palo verde trees. It is characterized by the signature Arizona triple heat temperature. The best parts of Scottsdale include Old Town Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, and Scottsdale Quarter.

I think the only thing that I didn’t like about Scottsdale as the lack of cultural diversity. I remember being the only Asian in both elementary and middle school. Many people didn’t know much about Chinese culture and treated me differently. As a result, I became much more Americanized to feel like I fit in. I became obsessed with American pop culture. My Chinese skills decreased tremendously.

The only place where I would speak and hear Mandarin would be at home with my parents. My parents tried their best to have a Chinese-American household. They wanted us to feel connected to both American and Chinese culture. We celebrated holidays from both countries such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, and Mid-Autumn Festival. They wanted us to have the best of both worlds. I have to credit my parents for allowing us to have the best of both worlds. They know that it was not easy to be Asian in Scottsdale.

When I moved to Atlanta for college, I definitely had the biggest culture shock. I was not used to seeing so many Asian people around. As a Quantitative Sciences major, I was surprised to find out that Mandarin and not English was the predominant language in my classes. I realized that there are also many more American Born Chinese (ABC) people. I felt so much more connected. However, I did notice that most of them grew up in the east coast and grew up in a setting where Chinese people were everywhere. Out of the other ABC, I am definitely the most Americanized. I consider this both a blessing and a curse. I still have the same problem of connecting with Chinese people. On the other hand, I can be friends with Americans easier.

I definitely think that growing up in Scottsdale shaped who I am. Even though I was a bit of a cultural identity crisis, I am extremely thankful and fortunate to consider this beautiful Arizona city my home.

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