A Tale of Two Cities: New York/Shanghai
By: Shadasia Diaz Baez
My name is Shadasia Diaz Baez, born to parents whom I still do not know today. I was adopted at age one and I live with my adoptive parents and siblings in Brooklyn, East New York. The only thing I know about my biological parents is that they are African American. My adoptive parents are from the Dominican Republic so as a child, I grew up learning both Spanish and English at the same time. This linguistic background afforded me the opportunity to love languages so when I learned about a China program at Medgar Evers College, where I am an international business major, I jumped at the opportunity. After a qualification application process, I was selected as one of about twenty students from across the United States to travel to China in July 2019. This experience changed my life.
As a black girl in a Spanish heritage family, I constantly had to ask myself, ‘who I am?’ I guess this is natural for a child adopted into a different culture.
Like me, many Chinese children were adopted by American parents and I understand that they have similar concerns about their identity. Such anxiety stayed with me until the time when I was transported to a completely different culture on a China trip. When I decided to study abroad in China, I had no idea how it would impact the way I viewed the world.
My concerns about going to a different country focused on how they were going to view me, a black girl from Brooklyn. On top of this concern, I was confronted by many of my peers and neighbors who questioned my choice of going to China as some of them indicated that the Chinese do not really like Blacks.
When the plane landed in China, I was excited and scared. This was the beginning of how I would learn to view the world for myself, not just through information in American schools. While living on campus for the month in Shanghai, I decided to explore with a couple of colleagues from the program. We visited car factories, restaurant chains, and other business organizations where I started to see a difference between the Chinese management style and the American one. Every organization seems to work as a team and every time we pose questions, the answers were mostly “we” not “I” achieved this or that. Through these sojourns, I also started to gain a sense of belonging within my new group of students who were from diverse backgrounds.
I started to shed my concerns about who I was and felt confident just being me.
The combined confidence allowed me to venture into learning more about who the Chinese people are and what they represent. Are they really racists against Blacks as I was told?
Each day before bed when I jotted down my thoughts, I realized that race was never an issue in this country or in my group. Having the chance to immerse myself in the Chinese language gave me the need to understand and learn about China and her people in person. I had the opportunity to understand the Chinese culture and history. I was able to come back as an ambassador to share my first-hand experience in China with my community, in which many have misinformed notions about other cultures.
This knowledge gained through my China trip has better prepared me as an international businesswoman in my future career and allowed me to tell my story about China with authenticity.
Shadasia Diaz Baez
Shadasia Diaz Baez is a senior at CUNY Medgar Evers College, pursuing a CUNY BA degree in International Business and Asian Studies. She is a CUNY BA candidate at the host college of Medgar Evers College.
Shadasia is involved in the Study Abroad club and SEEK program. In the last two years Shadasia has been active in advocating for and mentoring incoming freshmen students in the college, to help them stay the course and give them available resources that would benefit their academic year. She has been advocating for and informing college students the importance of studying abroad and having intercultural experiences and competence that will help them in the future.
Shadasia also had the opportunity to travel to and study in Shanghai, China at East China Normal University, where she studied international business and law and Communicative Chinese. Shadasia has been studying the Chinese language for one year and she will be completing her second year of Chinese language studies in the fall of 2020 with the assistance of the Confucius Institute at Medgar Evers College. She plans to go to China on a Fellowship grant and pursue her Master’s Degree there once COVID is over.