Every annoying thing you’ll have to put up with as a York student of dual heritage
Just because I’m not white it doesn’t mean I’m not English
At university you will meet people from all walks of life. This is because students come from all over the country, and of course from all over the world.
However, people often seem confused by the concept of someone having dual heritage. It's as if they believe that we must conform to one thing, as if you are either white or non-white. The reality is that there are many different ethnic identities.
With that in mind, here is my experience, as someone with dual heritage, during my first year at the University of York.
Where are you from? No, I mean REALLY from!
During Freshers' Week, it is a standard ice-breaker to ask someone where they're from. This is perfectly normal – everyone has arrived in a strange new place and wants to get to know each other better.
However, it is when it came to my answer that problems started to emerge. During the ice-breakers in freshers week, I was asked several times where I was from, to which I replied "Preston".
I was often met with confused looks, so assuming that this was because they hadn't heard of Preston, I quickly moved to clarify that it was "near Manchester". However, this was still met with perplexed glances which led to the one question that everyone with dual heritage hates from almost everyone whom I interacted with.
"Where are you REALLY from?"
I maintained that I was "really" from Preston though also clarified that my dad was from Pakistan in order to end the miserable interaction. However, this is not something that I, or any other mixed race person, should have to do – just because our skin colours are different, it doesn't mean that we aren't from England.
You don't really fit in
During Freshers' Week there was an event for BAME students run by the university's BAME network which I attended. I felt really out of place here as it felt like I didn't "belong". I'm used to having a mixed group of friends so it was a little jarring being in a room with just other BAME students and to me felt like we were removed from the rest of the university.
However, I do not mean to criticise the BAME network as I believe they do a lot of good work for the ethnic minority students on campus. I see how an event like this can be beneficial to many, though from my personal experiences I just felt like I wasn't supposed to be there.
You stand out
People are able to recognise me when I'm out and about on campus, even if they've only interacted with me once or twice prior to that.
There are very few ethnic minority students at the University of York, meaning that we tend to stand out.
People assume you can speak a second language fluently
I grew up learning English as my first language, though never picked up Urdu as a second language. However, I did pick up a few words but would still find it difficult to hold a conversation in Urdu. The closest I've ever got to being bilingual is a German GCSE.
People only ever want to know how to swear in 'your' language
You quickly learn that people aren't actually interested in learning the language they assume that you can speak.
They just want to know how to swear in your language because they think it's funny.
I've got a swear for you: Fuck off.
You don't really conform to one side of your ethnic identity
Yes, I often eat traditional Asian food such as curry, samosas or pakoras but that doesn't mean I can't also enjoy English dishes such as fish and chips or pie and mash.
Also, stop asking me why I'm not wearing traditional Asian clothes. I'll wear what I'm comfortable in and if that's a t-shirt and trackies then so be it.
Please, for the sake of all of us with dual heritage, listen to what's been said. After all, us students really aren't that different regardless of where we're from.