When I was applying to colleges, I had a lot of adults heaping advice on me–how to find the best study abroad programs, the best campus life, the best professors, the best undergrad programs. Also– to find Koreans.
I’m in college now, having pushed through my freshman year amid a pandemic. But the amount of advice hasn’t quite diminished. How to choose a major. How to prepare for a career, how to choose a career. How to be involved in clubs, at church, in the classroom. Do date, don’t date.
And then–do you have Korean friends? Any cute Korean boys?
Korean names stick out in class rosters. Korean words seem to ring louder sometimes. I’m not exclusively looking for Korean people, but sometimes I catch myself paying attention. It feels like I’m always searching for them. It’s a strange sensation, a subconscious pull. Korean gravity. It makes me wonder why.
I grew up as one of the only Asian Americans in my neighborhood. I was pretty much the only Korean. At school, there were three of us–me, another Korean girl, and a Chinese boy. Everyone thought we were cousins or siblings. Then, I went to a predominantly Asian American high school. Suddenly I found myself plunged into a sea of Asian faces, surrounded by people with similar cultural backgrounds. For four years, that strange Korean gravity wasn’t an issue in my life.
When I went to college, I found myself searching for Koreans again. Korean gravity, its reappearance was like a shock.
Truth be told, most of my college friends right now are Korean. Classes were almost all remote, as were most clubs. I’m not a great socializer so I took the easy route–I found a Korean church, I went to Asian Student Union events. I even reunited with my Korean friend from elementary school. I pretty much found all the Koreans I could possibly find.
I had told myself it was because of the pandemic, but looking back I wonder if I didn’t make as much of an effort to meet different people as I could have. It’s so easy to follow the advice, to just go straight to what’s familiar. It is easy to call it gravity, and just make a beeline for the Koreans. As much as I love having my Korean American community, I feel like I’ve built such a narrow social lens.
I want to break out of it, somehow.