“Say My Name” : Increasing Understanding Between International and Domestic Students at Columbia

by Project Pengyou on February 20th, 2017   451 views

Students at Columbia University put together a video sharing their names and the meaning behind them after discovering that several “East Asian sounding name tags” were torn off of their dorm rooms.

Sometimes, there is power not just in a name, but in the stories behind them.

Students at Columbia University put together a video sharing their names and the meaning behind them after discovering that several “East Asian sounding name tags” were torn off of their dorm rooms.

Yan Hu He, the international student who created the video response, aims to give international students from China a voice on campus. He explains that the origin of his name:

“My family name 闫 traces back to the Yellow Emperor’s clan in 2,600 B.C. Members of the clan are considered to be descendants of the mythical dragon. 呼和 are the first two characters of the city where I was born and raised, Hohhot, and it borrows the pronunciation from the Mongolian word “Xex,” meaning blue. In literal Chinese, the name also abbreviates “to preach harmony.””

In the video, other Chinese international students share the meaning of their own names, filled with their parents’ hope for their children as well as the student’s own desires to live up to that hope. The video has been viewed over 300,000 times and reactions have been mostly positive, with several other Chinese students sharing the meaning behind their names as well.

The video is not inflammatory, and approaches what must have been a painful and humiliating event with grace and understanding. We applaud these students for pushing back against fear of the unknown with empathy, and for finding a way to turn these negative feelings into a constructive and educational discussion for all.


Sources: Columbia SpectatorShanghaiist Buzzfeed


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