No matter how much time passes, I’ll never forget something my mom imparted to me on my first day as a middle schooler at my new school: “In a perfect world, everyone would have access to the opportunities you’ll have here.”
This is the adage which has pushed me to maximize the privileges and opportunities made available to me in the institutions I’ve been a part of. It is this phrase which has stuck with me, and dispelled any hesitancy I may have when considering options that may be considered unfamiliar by some from my familial community. It is this quote which has allowed me to take risks in the academic and professional realms, and truly come into my own, with the knowledge that I am supported by family and friends. And it is this line of thinking which, at the age of 15, made the opportunity to travel overseas for a year in an unfamiliar country seem like reality rather than fiction.
My first year living in China was perhaps the most meaningful of my time spent abroad. The city of Beijing, and traveling China as a country, was impressive and expanded my worldview, which had up till that point been fairly limited to my home region of the U.S. midwest. More influential, however, was how being in an unfamiliar and uniquely challenging foreign country, with compatriots who were also unfamiliar and not always the friendliest, forced me into greater independence, fearlessness, and allowed for overall self assurance and peace with the world as it is. In the years since my first experience living overseas, I’ve had to explain to a number of people, that as special a place as China may be itself, the real crux of my experience was the growth it forced me to go through via the unique challenges of being a young black male from the U.S. in China.
This quote has travelled with me throughout my time overseas – over the course of three years in China, a year in the Middle East, and various short trips internationally and domestically in the U.S. More importantly, it has stayed with me throughout my education and professional career. It has continued to motivate and drive me, and has never failed to remind me to press pause every now and again, take stock, and appreciate where life has taken me thus far.
I believe these are feelings and opportunities everyone should feel – Black people in particular.
In a perfect world, everyone would have access to the opportunities I’ve had throughout my education. An exponential amount of good can come from expanding those types of unique and challenging opportunities to those who are often underrepresented in such spaces. NABEA presents a major platform for tackling, head on, the challenge of making visible and expanding the voices of established and up-and-coming Black professionals and academics in the field of Asia. It is an honor to be a part of something so deeply important.
To you, the reader – thank you for being a part of this community and contributing, in whatever way you may, to the mission of giving back and helping make the Black community more visible in Asia related professional spaces.
Thank you for reading.
Khyle D. Eastin
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