Cultural Experience Essay Example: The Clash of Education and Culture
As a second-generation Yemeni immigrant raised in America to a very traditional middle eastern family where females are not expected to pursue education, I was raised with the concept of getting married and becoming a housewife. It is said every parent wants the best for their children. However, while the intent is good in today’s world, it can have significant unintended repercussions. My cultural background has a monumental effect on pursuing education, contributing to hardship, and undermining my purpose of life.
The affliction of growing up in America raised by the impact of the Yemeni culture had its peaks and valleys. As a little girl, I was raised with the impression that getting married, having children, and maintaining a home was considered being successful. Although education was supported, it was not prioritized. Education was nonexistent in my home. I did not have an educated role model in my family that I can look up to. I looked up to my parents as role models.
My mother, a doting housewife who devoted her time raising six children and my father, a provider who worked long hours struggling to make ends meet. Those were my role models growing up, or perhaps that is what I prepared myself to believe. As Richard Rodriguez said, "He cannot afford to admire his parents. He permits himself embarrassment at their lack of education" (61). Since a very young age, I had become their translator due to the language barrier, translating at parent-teacher conferences. Even though I looked up to my parents as influential individuals, it was difficult knowing I had surpassed them on an educational level. I knew my parents' intentions were good, struggling to raise children in America while making sure they instilled the Yemeni culture and beliefs. They would say they were preparing me for the "real world." Little did they know their world and my world were two different worlds.
My Responsibility Pool
As I grew and matured into high school, my responsibilities inside the home grew as well. I slowly started lifting the majority of the weight off my mother’s shoulders onto mine, taking over the cooking and cleaning, preparing for the inevitable future to come. It was difficult, yet I was able to balance home and school with a routine: wake up, go to school, go back, cook, clean, then finally homework. As my first year of high school was coming to an end and summer was approaching, my parents decided it would be beneficial if I traveled to Yemen without taking my schooling into consideration.
I was slightly hesitant yet somewhat thrilled that I will be able to visit this third world country my parents call home. After spending a year in Yemen, I adapted and grasped a better understanding of Yemeni culture. With high poverty rates, economic instability, and lack of essential human resources compared to the rest of the world, education was not a significant common factor. Instead, skills are taught based on survival. Previously assuming that men were identified as being superior and women portrayed as weaker vessels. Instead, it was quite the contrary. Men and women contributed equally in two distinctive ways. Men would work for income, and women work from home as the caretakers of the family. Within the year I spent in Yemen, that to me became customary, eventually neglecting the overall importance of education. I have learned to appreciate and value the diverse views of my parents because that was all they knew. They are a product of their culture as I am a product of them.
Fast forward twenty-nine years old, a husband and four kids later, I've "accomplished" the goals that my culture has set for me. Although I knew I had made my parents proud, that was not enough for me. My whole life, I followed the expectations of my parents and the culture they bestowed on me, not realizing the hardship and obstacles I would encounter due to the lack of education. It was not until I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the welfare office. I started reassessing my life and where I went wrong. I had this certain void I was yearning to fill. I started questioning myself, and in the moment of self-reflection, I realized the impact of not having a higher education, or college degree had on me. "The adult finally confronted, and now must publicly say, what the child shuddered from knowing and could never admit to himself" (Rodriguez 59). I always knew I wanted to break the cycle and be the first person in the family to earn a college degree, but I did not want to take the risk of being a disappointment. But now, I am determined to follow my ambitions and not the aspirations of what is expected of me.
You Define Your Culture
Obtaining my GED and enrolling in college was one of the hardest obstacles I had to face as a mother of four young children. I had so much to prove not only to the people of the Yemeni culture but also prove to myself that it is possible to strive to uncover my true potential without neglecting my responsibilities as a wife and mother. As parents, our children look to us for influence, guidance, and motivation. I wanted to set an example for my children and the children of my culture, to show them no matter who you are and where you come from, it does not have to be one or the other, you can have the best of both worlds, a family and education. By setting high expectations for yourself without limitations, and with both knowledge and the respect of your culture, you can become the best version of yourself. I strive to be more than the typical Middle Eastern female stereotype. I aim to be that role model for my children, the type of role model that was absent from my life growing up. They will see that during the process of pursuing an education, it will not come easy, they will stumble upon many hurdles, but with determination and willpower, they will overcome them. With education, they can open doors and have more opportunities.
In sum, cultural backgrounds can have a tremendous effect on educational pathways. The clash of education and culture can either make or break an individual. However, it is also imperative to give priority to education without neglecting cultural value. While maintaining a balance can prove to be difficult, like anything else, the reward is sweetest when it is earned. My personal development through the pursuit of education helped me realize that your culture doesn't define you; you define your culture.