Eric & Chee Hye

  • Eric & Chee Hye, Tucson, AZ

“They will say “Konnichiwa!” to all Asians, no matter where we are from. He thinks I am sensitive, but at Starbucks for example, people start talking to me in Chinese before asking me where I’m from. That first assumption sometimes frustrates me.”

Chee Hye’s story:

I’m from Korea. I came here in 2009 for a master’s degree and stayed for a PhD. I studied bilingual education. My family is from South Korea, my uncle’s family immigrated during the 1980’s. My aunt lives in Virginia. I feel like sometimes when people see an Asian face, they want to be nice but they appear ignorant. They will say “Konnichiwa!” to all Asians, no matter where we are from. He thinks I am sensitive, but at Starbucks for example, people start talking to me in Chinese before asking me where I’m from. That first assumption sometimes frustrates me. I go to church every Sunday at a Korean church. It is something that carries over from South Korea. I can speak Korean, there is a lot of Korean culture with food and everything else. Part of the reason I go to church is that I can connect to home. Some things clash culturally with Korean elders because I’m sort of mixed with a lot of American qualities. I think language is the most important thing to pass on. Because my cousins lost their first language, they can’t speak Korean anymore. When you speak the Korean language you also learn how to act or behave within certain customs.

I was on my own in Arizona when I came over. It was hot, completely different from Korea. I had a friend who graduated from University of Arizona and recommend it as a nice school, so it’s one of the places I applied. I came here in the third grade, so I learned English then. I went back to South Korea and learned English in school there, too. Depending on the jobs that are available I will either stay or go back. I’m almost done with school so if I find a job in the States I will stay but I’m open to going anywhere really.

Eric’s story:

My family is from Mexico — my dad is from Puebla, mom from Sinaloa. I was born in Nogales but raised in Veracruz. It’s a really big mix over there. My mom is half-Spanish and half-Irish with a bit of Native American Aztec on my dad’s side. I came to the U.S. in 1991 to Nogales, Arizona. Then when I graduated in 1993, I came to Tucson and began college. In 2001, I went back to Mexico for four to five years. Then I came back in 2005. High school here was awful; it was difficult because the culture is very different here. Even within Mexico, the south is very different from north. In less than a year I lost my accent because of the bullying. There’s friction here in the U.S. between the Mexican-Americans and the Mexicans who are first-comers. Lot’s of fights. They picked on us a lot.

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