Transitioning from America to Taiwan and back again

Photo courtesy of Jamie Wong

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Some international students struggle with understanding their cultural identity and trying to find where they belong in this world, according to Baylor graduate Jamie Wong. There can be a tension between their home country and their new country of living, making it difficult to identify where home really is.

“I was born in Norman, Okla. as the youngest of three siblings,” Wong said. “My dad was the pastor of a small Chinese church, so I was brought up knowing the love of Jesus from a very young age but also feeling the tension between my Chinese and American cultures. When I was seven-years-old, my family moved to Taiwan, where I lived until I graduated high school. When people ask me where I’m from, it’s sometimes difficult to respond. Norman is my birthplace, but Taiwan feels a lot more like home. Now, in America, Waco is the closest thing to what I’d consider home.”

Wong faced the reality of leaving close friends and learning new places at a young age. She said her transition from Norman, Okla. to Taiwan was extremely difficult.

“The transition from Norman to Taiwan was so hard — as a child, I did not understand why we were moving, only that I did not want to go. When we first arrived in Taiwan, I experienced great culture shock. Ethnically, I am Chinese, but I could not speak the language nor understand the culture,” Wong said.

While Wong was born in America and even spent a semester here in high school, she said her exposure to American culture was very limited. She felt lonely and out of place.

“However, through my difficult transition, I realized that it’s okay to feel super American when I’m in Taiwan and super Asian when I’m in America. Rather than find my identity in a nation, I find it as a daughter of Christ. This allows me to build bridges with other people who equally feel displaced or unknown. Diversity and cultures are a beautiful thing, and being entirely comfortable and one-sided is overrated and not the heart of God,” Wong said.

Many who encounter Wong have been positively affected by her presence in their lives.

“Jamie is someone who leads others to God by modeling it herself. Her authenticity and genuine love for others impacts people around her because they can clearly see her uncompromising faith and joy in her own walk with God. She is patient, steadfast, passionate and sacrificial when it comes to caring for those around her. There are so many friends, including myself, that have been impacted by her,” South Korea sophomore Jinhee Kim said.

Wong leads a group of students, the majority being international, every Sunday night through Antioch Community Church. She creates a safe space for these students to be together, meet American friends and learn about what pulled her through her loneliness when she first arrived at Baylor — Jesus Christ. She has a passion for making international students feel welcome and desires for others to do the same.

“[International students] have incredible perspectives to offer, but so often, language or cultural barriers prevent relationships from being built. In meeting with many international students, the question I most commonly get is ‘Is it really possible to make American friends?’ Every single one of them desires to know American culture and people fully — there’s no way they would leave their families thousands of miles away and come study here otherwise,” Wong said.