Ethnic/Racial Cliques and Groups in School

I do not live in Seoul anymore. Extreme sadness to that.

Instead, I am currently in the United States attending university. My family still lives in Korea though, so I plan to go back to Seoul during the summer in 2012.

Through becoming friends with my current group of friends here in my first year of university, I realized throughout most of my life, my “clique” consisted of a random variety of types of people.

A couple weeks into school, I joined some Asian culture club and I was actually able to meet my close university friends through the organization. All the girls I became close friends with love K-Pop (especially Big Bang, DBSK, and 2PM!) and I’m so glad that the group I have is diversified.

My friends here consist of various races such as Caucasian, African-American, Chinese, Filipino, Hispanic, Jamaican, Indian, you name it! I just love how diverse our group is  because in my university (and probably in other places as well) most cliques are based on ethnicity/race. For example, whenever we hang out in the cafe, we’ll see groups of Hispanics or the Asians together. Even a small group of Caucasians every now and then. But then you look at my group and it’s like (quoting what my friend said, excuse the language) a “cluster f*ck of races” and I feel like that perfectly describes us. I wouldn’t want to trade my group of friends for anything, whether it’s a group of Korean or half Koreans. Not that I have anything against them, but I truly enjoy the little things I’ve learned about other races that i had no idea about such as discovering about Trinidad and the lives my friends had in their home countries (like Guatemala and Spain).

This reminds me of high school. In high school it’s the same thing, most groups stick together based on race. I would see so many various Korean cliques together: the preppy Koreans, the hip-hop Koreans, the gamer Koreans, etc.  and then the groups of Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, etc. (but mainly I would see Korean groups since that’s what a majority of my high school was made up of).

Then there was my group (back in high school): me (a half-Korean girl), my Vietnamese-Filipino best friend, half-Korean best guy friend, Korean gamer guy friend, Korean girl, and occasionally another Korean guy.

Okay, wait a minute. I just realized, most of my group on high school consists of Koreans or half-Koreans. But the thing is, we all seem so different. Like, I’m quiet and shy, but a bit more preppy while some of my friends were more sporty, others more nerdy, others into games. When I think back, we all didn’t have very much in common besides somehow clicking and becoming best friends (which I completely love them for!)

The point is, diversity is the best (whether through ethnicity or even just personality/hobbies). I’m grateful that I was able to find a clique in university that isn’t much of a clique based on race or ethnicity, but just on commonality like K-Pop, video games, being chill, and having the same classes.  I’m half Korean but I know I would never be able to fit into a group of full Koreans because I don’t look full Korean, can’t speak it fluently, and my personality is not quite like most Koreans, and I’m also half Hispanic. I know for a fact I wouldn’t fit in with a group of full Hispanic girls because I look and act too Asian (hahahaha, sad but true!). I also cannot speak Spanish AT ALL. I was so worried when I started school because I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to make friends. I love Asian (or more specifically, Korean-) culture so much but my school has an extremely low percentage of Asians and I hadn’t lived in America for a long time so I know the way I thought and acted wouldn’t be typical of most other Americans attending the school. I’m also not like most teens where I would drink, do drugs, party, etc. (or at least, not like the popular kids! hahaha)

In the end though, I was able to find people like me: displaced in the social hierarchy of school but still very honest and open to new cultures and experiences (plus we’re good kids! hahaha, not doing anything too crazy or bad on weekends~) So I’m also grateful that I didn’t get sucked into the wrong kind of crowd.

I am not at all judging groups that stick together and are of the same race/ethnicity, but growing up as half-and-half always made me displaced amongst cliques so I always usually had a diverse range of close friends instead of sticking with one kind of group. In a way I’m sort of jealous of groups of the same race because it seems fun to be able to relate customs, foods, language, and other commonalities with people who experienced the same thing because of the same culture. Nonetheless, I love being half-and-half and the life lessons I learned through it, such as not to judge others because of them being “different” and having an open mind to different cultures 🙂

So anyways, let me guys know what kind of clique/group of friends you guys have! I’m interested to know about others’ experiences with this as well 🙂 Also be aware that I’m loosely using the term “clique” in a way to describe a group of people. I am trying in no way to stereotype or judge.


9 thoughts on “Ethnic/Racial Cliques and Groups in School

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. It was nice to see that other people share the same situation. I’m also half Korean (and a quarter Russian/Hungarian) At my school almost everyones Asian, so I just ended up being pulled into a clique of Asian girls. I quickly realized how not Korean I am. It was really difficult not being able to connect with kids of either culture since I barely knew anything about my backgrounds. It really made me feel different, but lately I’ve seen how its a good thing. I’ve been trying to change my thinking and realize how cool being a halfie is 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! I agree it’s difficult when you connect culturally with another group but there are definite perks, like learning about their culture more and them learning about yours. It’s difficult though, so I completely understand. There are days when I think “Why can’t I be full Korean?” but I quickly remember how much I enjoy being half and half 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  2. Multiculturalism is the best. I grew up in a huge metropolis in the US and have friends from all walks of life. In my high school, there was a multitude of different languages spoken. We celebrated Diwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and so many others. There was a large Korean-American population too, so Chuesok was also a big affair.

    I feel fortunate to have studied and worked amongst so many different ethnicities and races. I learned so much about the world around me. I realized that our similarities are far greater than our differences. 🙂

    • Wow! That’s definitely really awesome and unique. I’ve lived in a few states and the schools I went to, there was a majority of one ethnicity and the rest would usually group together with their own race. I kind of wish I could have grown up in your high school because that just sounds so amazing to get to be around and embrace so many different cultures 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • YOu dont need to try to fit in just be yourself. There is no reason why you should be stressing that. Be happy with who you are and stay true to yourself. If you find a good friend keep him or her because identifying someone only by their ethnic background is wrong

  3. I always feel like i dont belong when im around my Papii who’s family is Samoan and Puerto Rican they always Speak in their first language i can comprehend what theyre saying but i am not fluent and can’t say anything back. My mother is Korean and African American and Lord knows i never undertsand what my grandpa is saying……PLease Help

  4. Hey there. I am an international student and an upcoming university freshman. A sizable number of intl students come from my country so it’s going to be easy to get into a country specific clique in my case. I don’t want that for my university experience. How do I Have a group of friends filled with people from different nations (just like you)? Do I have to avoid hanging out with students from my country? What do I have to do?

  5. I have had this experience. I am partly Egyptian and have spent several years trying to befriend people in the culture. I didn’t grow up in the culture and decided to seek it out for myself not long ago. Therein lies the problem: people are born into it and have a lifetime of connections, friendship, and family solidarity that I don’t. I usually feel like a “visitor” around the large group, and most just talk to each other rather than ask me about myself or why I’m interested in spending time around them. Some individuals I have met do take the time to reach out to me, as I always try to do to them, but it’s hard to say that that’s the general pattern. I also don’t look, sound, or act the part. Again, some of the most wonderful people I’ve met in the last few years are from this community, and I’m not trying to say that I’m intentionally being shut out by everybody. But I get the feeling that I will never truly be “admitted” to the group at large and that most of my friends, like yours, are a varied mixture of folks who welcome me despite my appearance and my background. I’m glad that you’ve been able to bond with people of different backgrounds, as well.

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