Four years seemed eons away when I first stumbled onto the Hilltop as a confused freshman. Even now, with two months left before graduation, it is still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my time at Georgetown is coming to an end.
Of the many impactful moments in life, graduation makes the Top 10 for both graduating seniors and their families. Graduation weekend is always celebrated as a joyous family-oriented occasion, and Georgetown families are certainly not the exception; I hear many restaurants are already booked out for graduation dinner.
It’s a little strange, therefore, to discuss how the prospect of bringing my family to graduation ceremonies fills me with trepidation. Yes, I’m excited about graduating and want to commemorate the end to four life-changing years, but I’m uncertain my parents will find much meaning in Georgetown’s ceremonies and traditions.
My parents, who immigrated to America in the 1990s, still hold tightly to their traditional Chinese values and beliefs. Part of their culture holds that education is less a process than it is a stepping stone. College is not the deeply developmental experience it is often celebrated as in the United States. Before I came to Georgetown, they sat me down, had me plan out how I would use my education to move into a high-paying job, and emphasized how college was, first and foremost, a financial investment.
This belief has defined how I was raised. When I returned home from school as a child, they would ask not about my day or my friends, but about my grades and homework. At high school graduation, they went through the motions and smiled for the other parents, but encouraged me to finish up as quickly as we could since they didn’t see much value in spending time there. When my parents call to check in on me, I know they want to be sure of my well-being, but I quickly become aggravated each time they default to asking why I don’t have an internship or where I am in the job search.
My parents’ underlying intentions are obviously in my best interest, but what’s resulted is that I rarely discuss my life with my family. They are unaware of nearly all of my college experiences because they don’t understand why what I find important and impactful is, in fact, important and impactful, and I often give up on attempting explaining. They know little to nothing of the friends I’ve made, or the conversations I’ve had that opened my eyes or challenged my fundamental beliefs, or the travel trips I’ve embarked on. They certainly are in the dark about the partying and bar-hopping—not just because I choose not to mention them, but because they never lived college social life the way I have.
Undergirding my parents’ beliefs is their attitude of cultural conservatism. Perhaps it is a protective mechanism they developed immigrating to a completely new world, but they resist assimilating into American culture and prefer living familiar lifestyles. My mother’s discomfort with and near-physical inability to eat any cuisine that is not Chinese, even if it’s Japanese or Korean, exemplifies this—albeit in a bit of an extreme fashion.
But as I gain more perspective, I realize I should reach out more. Thus, when I discussed attending Senior Week activities in January with my family, I was initially excited for my parents to participate in Georgetown traditions. I quickly became less optimistic once I read through the events. A lecture on “The Jesuit Education”? My father would easily fall asleep. The Georgetown men’s basketball game? My mother finds sports uninteresting, and my father only likes hockey because we lived in Canada. And attending the Senior Auction would have been a great joke. Tossing away exorbitant sums, for however much of a good cause, was simply beyond my parents’ (and, admittedly, my own) comprehension.
Most importantly, although I refrained from verbalizing it, I wasn’t sure how my engineering-trained immigrant parents would fit into the stereotypical white and wealthy Georgetown parent crowd. I didn’t see how they would be comfortable in such a different culture.
I wonder what I will do as graduation approaches. I’m eager to dress up and socialize at Senior Ball and watch the sunrise at the monuments, but the $95 tickets alone are enough to make my parents balk. Beyond that, I wonder how I can communicate how meaningful Georgetown has been to me and why graduation is symbolically important. I’ll let you know how it goes.