We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Lay Wah Carolina Ching is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors. She is now an educator and writes to us from her home in Ecuador.
By Lay Wah Carolina Ching
“So, where are you from?”
Countless times as a teenager, I was asked this very stereotypical question because of my Asian looks. Here is what I usually say in reply:
“hmmm…Technically Chinese but officially Ecuadorian!”
The explanation is rooted in my identity: My dad is Chinese and moved to Ecuador when he was twenty years old. My mom was born in Ecuador, but her parents were Chinese. I was also born in Ecuador. As a kid, people in Ecuador would find it amazing that I was able to speak Spanish perfectly. Similarly, when I spent two years living in China, people there found it equally surprising that I couldn’t speak the language at all.
I grew up in the duality of Chinese-Ecuadorian cultures. Some good examples of that duality are found in every day life. I may be eating lunch with a fork and knife, but as the sun sets, I will certainly be using chopsticks! Every year, you will find me celebrating the traditions of New Years twice – and of course enjoying gifts in both. These are exciting parts of a life between two cultures, but not every aspect has been as joyful.
This duality always made me wonder: was there something wrong because I didn’t feel 100 percent accepted in one single country? In class, we were led to believe that your identity was defined by the country where you were born. As a student, I also thought that perhaps the IB Diploma Programme would help define which cultural side to take. But an interesting thing happened instead – the IB added much more culture to my life!
During my two years studying for my IB Diploma I was blessed to be offered a 360 degree view of loving, accepting and embracing the richness of culture! Each of my subjects were key components to a better appreciation for how culture impacts a human being’s development and the network that is our world. Loving and understand the depth of other cultures through reading was the start of the most wonderful thing the IB programme did for me! It opened my eyes to look for a university abroad and be the first one in my family to hold a Bachelors degree.
I carried my inspiration from the IB Diploma Programme on to my studies at university. I not only had the opportunity to meet people from countries such as Vietnam, Korea, Japan, India and Sri Lanka – but I was excited to open the door to learn more about their culture and identity. I not only accepted, but embraced the richness and the power of these cultural differences.
Back to that stereotypical question: “So, where are you from?”
I realize now, people are not posing these stereotypical questions to be hurtful, but to genuinely learn more. These questions are also an opportunity to open yourself up to create that culture of sharing and teach beyond the stereotypes! In my eyes, the essential attribute of an IB education is the purposeful focus on the international! It supported my journey and I hope will open the eyes of future generations to create leaders that will make the world a more loving and accepting place, while embracing the richness of a variety of cultures.
Contributing author Lay Wah Carolina Ching completed the IB Diploma Programme at Colegio Politecnico, received her BBA from Texas Christian University, and currently teaches Business Management for an IB school in Ecuador. She is passionate about individuals, cultures and challenging her students to different perspectives.