Student: Frances Deram ’12
Major: Philosophy/Asian Studies/Chinese Concentration
Program: Academic Civic Engagement
Class: Asian American Experiences (ARMS 250)
Project: Oral history of a local Thai immigrant
Please describe your project.
We interviewed a Thai immigrant (Gam) and investigated her personal story of assimilating into American culture. Having studied Asian American identity and function in the American society since the early 1900's, we used the interview as an outlet to better understand Gam's individual story placed within the context of Asian American history. Questions that we asked concerned the transitions she had to make by speaking a new language, working a new job, and being a newlywed.
How did you have an impact? What was your greatest contribution?
Our greatest impact was made by sharing Gam's story through the poster session. Because it was Gam speaking to us and relating her "American" experience, we could only hope to portray it as closely to how she described it. Multiple students and St. Olaf faculty came over, curious to know who "Gam" was and why her experience was so "beautiful". We passed her first-hand account over to these on-lookers so that they could be more aware of just who makes up "Asian Americans".
How did this experience change you?
Gam's story, after studing so much about the discrimination and culture shock Asian immigrants had to face, was so refreshing to hear. She stood out as someone who, given the right circumstances, could fully embrace American liberty. It is because of experiences like these that make me seek ways to better the lives of other immigrants who do not have the same opportunities. Gam was lucky, but there are so many others who are not. How can I change this? I, at least, can start by trying to understand the entiritey of Asian American experiences historically and presently.