Initially coming into class, I had a preconceived notion that the class would encompass more historical aspects and would stick to the facts. However, throughout the duration of the class, this perception has largely shifted. From exploring themes of diversity, community, civility, and cultural diffusion, I was fascinated with the personal and “story-telling” attributes of the immigrant experience. In addition, the exploration of these themes through various forms of media, such as art, literature, and videos, made me acquire a new appreciation for and gain a new perspective on how the immigrant experience evolved over time.
One of the first ideas that we delved into was the acculturation of people. In this topic, we addressed the differences between acculturation and assimilation and looked at various videos that expressed this. The media that we explored was particularly striking, as they detailed the harsh immigrant experiences and the reality of being an immigrant attempting to get to the US. It was eye opening to learn of the perilous conditions that these immigrants had to go through and how horribly they were treated throughout the process.
The next theme that we explored was assimilation and integration — how these immigrants adjusted to their new lifestyle. They had to learn how to adopt a new culture as their own and change certain identities in order to fit in. This made me acknowledge the sacrifices that my own parents made, and how the experience of taking on a new identity can be mentally exhausting. They were stuck between two cultures, forced to choose one over the other at times.
Getting to explore various artists and seeing immigration being represented in literature and art by immigrant artists and writers was intriguing. I was able to gain a more holistic understanding of the immigrant experience. As one of the articles mentioned, historians present the facts, while novelists give those facts life. Novelists provide meaning to the experiences and amplify unspoken voices. I hope to continue learning about these unspoken voices and understand the struggles and sacrifices they encountered, while also celebrating their successes.