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The outsider perspective: the first in a series of conversations with first-generation immigrants on campus

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MARCH 19, 2017

David Choi was born in Korea and has lived in California since the age of two. The Daily Californian spoke to him about his experiences as a first-generation immigrant on campus. This is the first in a series of photo essays on the immigrant experience at UC Berkeley.


The Daily Californian: “As a first-generation immigrant, have you had an identity crisis?”

David Choi: “At home I spoke Korean, I ate Korean food, I went to church with Korean people. I thought of myself as Korean. … In school I was known as Korean because it was pretty unique to be Korean — there were less than 10 of us overall. But when I met with (Korean) relatives, I was considered American. I couldn’t hold a conversation with my aunt or uncles. That was the only moment I thought, ‘Am I Korean because I say I’m Korean? What am I?’ ”


DC: “Do you feel like being Korean American has changed your perspective on anything?”

David: “The only thing I’ve been taught and follow is I should probably work harder than others because I am still an outsider in this country. I am a U.S. citizen, but I look like an Asian to other people. If I want to compete with others, I have to work harder.”



DC: “What don’t people understand about being a first-generation immigrant?”

David: “A lot of people here assume that I come here and I want to get this huge high-paying salary job and work in Silicon Valley. That’s the general vibe around Asian people or people in STEM in general. I’m against that. I’m not really in it for the money. I’m not really in it to particularly live in America. I study math and people are like oh man, that’s where the money is. My thought is, no, that’s where I can help people. I want to teach math. … Math, universally, is the same. In other fields, it’s harder to communicate (across language barriers). Math is the easiest to convey.”

Contact Lillian Holmes and Daniel Kim at [email protected]

MARCH 19, 2017