'Minority' report

14 April 2017

Jasmine Chong reflects on her own ethnic Chinese identity in the context of the UK and student theatre


Jasmine Chong (Management Team). Born and bred in Hong Kong, Ethnic Chinese.

I like boring people with statistics, so please bear with me:

About 20 per cent of the world’s population is Chinese. Nearly 1.4 Billion people out of 7.5 billion people.
About 13 per cent of the UK’s population is born outside the UK. About 3 million are from the EU and 5.3 million from outside the EU.
19 per cent of the UK’s higher education student population are international students.
14 per cent of the UK’s higher education student population are students from outside the EU.

So roughly speaking, one in every five students in higher education in the UK is from a different culture to British culture. About one in every 10 people living in the country is born outside this tiny island that once controlled much of the world.

MA International Events Management student at MMU | Geography and Planning Graduate from TUoS | Theater Lover | Music Lover | Bake a bit | Travel a bit | Imagine a lot | Thinker | Environmentalist

This is the biography section of my Wordpress, that is how I see myself. As an international student who's only been in the UK since coming here for university, I am aware of the differences in upbringing and culture, but I don’t see them as being the defining element of one’s character or identity. I was always the only or one of the very few international students, be it EU or non-EU, involved with the theatre societies I was with who never felt like they were different, or a minority.

Being a minority in the context of ethnicity never occurred to me as a barrier. Admittedly language was one when I first started, not understanding what a pinafore was when that was the costume for the lead girl of the show, and I was the costume assistant. That has gradually become less of a thing as, after four years, I have got used to the language used in theatre. I don’t feel that much different from everyone else because we are all there for theatre, for what we are passionate in. I am not a minority in terms of our interest.

It only struck me the other day when I was at the discussion on integrated and gender-blind casting when the point was raised that minorities are not necessarily viewed as who they identify themselves as. I feel that perceptions of people based on their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion is an unnecessary social construct that needs to be deconstructed.

After seeing Say it Loud last night, I had a conversation with Kia Yee, who’s from Singapore. We both agreed the following are true:

There are a lot of international students in the UK but only a small proportion are involved in student societies and sports club at the Students’ Unions.

In most cases, those societies are welcoming to everyone.

Both parties should put effort into integration, it is a two-way process.

Breaking down the barrier is not an easy process, but it must be done. I am a firm believer that we are all international. We are experiencing all different cultures in this increasingly interconnected world, which enriches us, but doesn't define us. Be it months, years or decades, we should work towards a world where everyone is integrated, regardless of their differences.


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Photo credit: Giulia Delprato