There are various levels of how communities are imagined as argued out by Mary Louise Pratt in “Arts of the Contact Zone”. Each level has an expectation for the imagined society and thus people are believed to behave and act as imagined. Being an international student coming from the Chinese background, I have had the opportunity to interact with diverse people in my line of schooling since my graduation from the high school (Pratt 547).
Going to study abroad was one of the most thrilling feelings I have ever had. I recall when my mother revealed the news to me, I was exceptionally much delighted. I longed to set foot out of Taiwan. I tried to figure out how thrilling it is especially to live in America, the country I only see on TV. However, that was real. I was going to study in America, and this created an opportunity to meet new friends (Pratt 547). However, I was weak at languages. English was not my favorite language and still I had not shown interest or effort to learn it. Faced with the situation I had to look for a private tutor for my English lesson. I did not want to appear as numb to students abroad. After successfully completing the course, I was able to go, and a year later I settled in a junior high school.
As opposed to my first experience at Junior high school, I started adopting and socializing in America. There was a kid by the name John who was also my neighbor. John was somehow a mysterious individual right from the moment we engaged with each other. I had come to school with a bicycle a bit late, and he was there with his “don’t care” attitude trying to bully this new Chinese kid “me”. I honestly do not know what John was expecting from me, but, one obvious thing was that he wanted to know if I knew Kung Fu. John scolded me and said “New girl! This is not China where you come to school when you want, why are you late?” I was expecting to be answerable to the teacher, but there was a student trying to make himself superior. According to me, it never mattered, whether he was a senior or a student leader. I moved closer to him and asked to be forgiven for being late, for it could not happen again. John wanted to attract attention, and therefore; he shouted, “I asked why you are late, and not promise!” “I tried to locate the school thus wasting a lot of time,” I finally said. I am not a professional fighter, and I do not have any skills for fighting, but I can defend myself facing such a situation, and that was a chance to take care of myself. The communication with John helped me confront my fears, John scolded me thinking that I would freak and surrender to his torture. Also, John used to understand easily thus enabling me to react appropriately.
However, the situation was awkward as my caretaker did not expect a new Chinese girl to pick fights with others. Furthermore, it was a foreign land, and I was the minority. Had I hit back, I figured I could have received punches here and there but if John had persisted I would have smacked his face. Around the parking lot, children were all staring at me as they cheered waiting to see some Chinese girl fighting (Pratt 547). The other communities view Chinese people as the best at fists and also quick to anger as my friend once told me later after the incidence. This happens because the cinematic empire accomplished gymnastic fighters like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li as “kung Fu masters.” I was tense, and I could see the same in John. Despite my composure, I felt the urge to ignore John’s insults, but something was pushing me towards showing the group that I am not a coward. The students were also worried, and everyone was watchful of any eventualities. It took the intervention of another boy who calmed us down.
In imagined societies, Pratt’s argument states that “People never know most of their fellow- members.” Moreover, communities are respected and perceived in accordance with their manners and culture. Language plays a vital role in the contact zone. Personally, I used it to communicate with Students here applying my basic interaction tool. School is my contact zone. There are a lot of expectations from my teachers, parents and fellow friends. Parents expect me to study and behave well at school. Teachers expect performance and discipline while my friends expect me to be there for them. School is a small world; nonetheless, it is not easy to see everyone around the school. Similarly, I also expect others to behave as I imagine.
While speaking to my French friends, I found out more about their culture, how they spend their leisure time, their favorite dishes and how their communities are perceived by them. Being at school they represent the elite. This is the same for Blacks, Indians, Europeans and Britons. The society takes us to school to learn and gain knowledge. Therefore, they expect us to read, graduate and take up best jobs in the market. I have the interest of becoming an accountant, but accounting classes have turned to be quite challenging. Back in my country, people are business obsessed, and there are plenty of opportunities. I look forward to be among the top accountants when time is ripe (Pratt,547). Meanwhile, I need to enhance my connection with those “genius accounting freaks” here in college. It is ironical how sometimes I hear them complain that some tasks are difficult and demanding. These are the guys that can work magic with accounting problems, for they have everything at their figure tips.
The Last semester, the class comprised of four groups finally came up with solutions of the assigned problems in accounting. Being among the group of geniuses, my part was easy: to focus. I could do all the hearing, and they could do all the talking. Therefore, they were like teachers to me. My participation was not in vain as I was keen on learning from “the best”. Just as Pratt puts it “The prototype of the modern nation as imagined and viewed in the ways people think.” Emphases are on “not by their falsity or genuineness” do communities exist in the imagination. I expected the accounting students to treat me similarly as they treated with John since Americans are an arrogant bunch of people.
Imagined communities are different in the style and it is differently treated by other people from the different communities. Here, I am with genius accounting students, working out and flowing by their rhythm. The closeness with the genius students in accounting made me understand that it was not so easy for them as I thought. They were referring to books and internet resources for information. Through interaction with the genius students, I learnt more and developed my language skills thereafter. The students communicated in English, and some used French thus allowing me to understand each part of accounting problems and achieve in my studies. That is just a piece of contact with my classmates. As I said earlier, I am social, and I have interacted quite well with people in America. I only knew those who are close to me, or those that I have bumped into, however, some people knew me and I did not know them. Others simply know me as a Chinese girl from the looks and expect me to live a Chinese way of life.
School has facilitated contact with other students and teachers too. There are the subordinate staff and parents of some students we have met. According to Pratt there are “social spaces where cultures meet up, disagree and struggle with each other”, and there are asymmetrical relations. Further, Pratt zeros on the idea of the contact zone as part that contrasts “with ideas of community that underline much of thinking about language, communication and culture” that gets done by the community's ability. In this limited society, I will achieve my best that will enable me to shape my life and develop my career.