Earlier this summer, I received an email with news that I received a Victoria Foundation Chinese-Canadian Community Bursary for the University of Victoria, one I had almost forgot about during the business of graduation, exams, and full-time work. But when I took in the email, I remember that quite a lot of thoughts and emotions ran through my head. Here is how I would summarize the next 20 minutes after I opened the fortunate email:
My first reaction when I saw I received the award was, “I got this for just being me?”, because I always believed the word “scholarship” belonged to students with unique academic achievements, incredible grades, and extensive volunteer work that created great change in the world. I never would have thought that I could get a scholarship for just being born into a specific culture, especially when the population of Chinese-Canadians is considerably large in Victoria. This was a happy surprise though, not one where I got scared or anything. And of course, after I got myself composed I called my mom to tell her the great news.
After getting over my shock and giddiness that I shared with my mom, I immediately thought of my childhood experience as a Chinese-Canadian. Ever since I was young and understood the different cultures that existed in the world, I remember I always felt, well… ‘awkward’ being both Chinese and Canadian because I never felt as if I truly belonged in either. Six-year-old me did not speak fluent Cantonese other than what I picked up from Hong Kong dramas, hated plain white rice, and couldn’t even write anything in Chinese except my name and the numbers one to 10. But six-year-old me also had never been camping, didn’t know what beets or meatloaf were, and did not have the Disney channel where I could watch Hannah Montana every day. It was as if I were both Chinese and Canadian on the outside, but truly neither on the inside
However, as I grew older, I adapted. I developed the ability to speak two languages fluently, thanks to both regular public school and Chinese school in Chinatown. I enjoyed great amounts of variety in my meals, from rice and side dishes, to steak dinners, to sandwiches at lunch. I can choose whatever I want to eat and make it myself. I even went snowboarding on Mount Washington, something I never even knew existed until a few years back. I did not realize how mixed into both cultures I was until I received the Chinese-Canadian Victoria Foundation Scholarship. My eyes completely opened when I received this scholarship, and that is when I knew I am proud to be a Chinese-Canadian.
Of course, after all my emotions and thinking, I had to do some more thinking: how am I going to use this $1000? This money would first be applied to my UVic student account, but since I knew I had tuition covered already, I would be able to spend it on whatever I wanted. To be honest, my first ideas I thought of included the start of funding for an Italy trip, more Lululemon pants and another bookshelf with some more beautiful novels. But, thankfully, I thought again and remembered this is a scholarship meant to be used towards education, so I made it my “First Year Textbook Fund.” I have currently bought all my required textbooks, lab manuals, lab coats, online access codes, and lecture books on a specific account, and kept all the receipts together so that once I can take that scholarship money out of my school account, it shall refill the depleted one. It hurts to see all that money go towards a semester of textbooks, but I believe education is an investment worth every dollar.
In conclusion, I went through a roller-coaster of emotions and feelings in the moments after receiving the award, but I believe this scholarship has given me more than just happiness for 20 minutes; it has taught me to change the way I think and act. Prior to this, I have always tried to only show one culture at a time, one at home and the other outside. However, I know that I am neither at certain times, but instead both all the time because that is what makes me, ME! I know I should be going through every day for the rest of my life knowing I am Chinese-Canadian and should never have to put on a mask. I will be proud of who I am, no matter how much I may stand out or feel different.
My name is Carmen Ho, and I am Chinese-Canadian.
For more information on scholarships offered by the Victoria Foundation, click here.