The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Gemma Tung '23 RGLP Reflection

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Many people define culture as something that many people in a group can all belong to. This definition of culture refers to ideals, practices, traditions, and customs of a particular group of people. The culture you belong to influences so many aspects of your behavior, like how you handle conflict or confrontation, how you express love, and also how you process and express emotions. The lifestyles and traditions that go along with cultures also influence how you interact with people around you, regardless of whether or not they identify with similar cultures or a different one. Further, people identify with their cultures at varying levels. Not all people who identify with one culture will identify as strongly as others do, and as such won’t exhibit traits of those cultures as strongly, however it does not mean that they are any less a part of that group. When an individual belongs to so many groups with different and particular cultures, what culture do they belong to?

The spaces I have belonged to and the experiences I have had in such spaces where culture exists haven’t informed my culture, they have created my culture. Being half Korean and half Chinese, having grown up in America, having been privileged enough to attend private and boarding school, being a musician, being an athlete, being raised by two immigrant parents one of whom grew up in America, and being a Dartmouth student are all spaces and experiences that have had culture, and therefore contributed to my own culture. Culture is quite literally everywhere. In the most traditional senses, culture comes from ethnicity, race, religion, and nationality. Culture also takes form in states, cities, towns, schools, and families. Culture is specific to individual people. You can belong to or identify with certain group cultures, but when people ask me to talk about “my culture”, I don’t interpret that to mean American culture, Korean culture, or Chinese culture. I interpret that to mean the ideals I hold myself to and behaviors that are ingrained in me as a result of all the cultures I feel I am a part of.

Written by Gemma Tung, a member of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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