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Joe Trombello | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Sophomore Ryan Leung didn’t want to be labeled, categorized or lumped into a group because of his ethnicity. Leung, whose parents are from Hong Kong, did not immediately become involved in the Asian American Association, though he now serves as the club’s president. He said he did not want to be perceived as just another Asian and believed that associating only with Asians would brand him in a way he didn’t want to be.”I didn’t want to be labeled as one of the Asian kids,” he said. “I wanted to stand out … so I wouldn’t be confused.”Leung remembers first feeling different from others in grade school, when white students made fun of him for having smaller eyes.”I felt more shocked than anything,” he said. “I had never experienced that before – people put me in a special category. Although Leung attended some meetings of the Asian American Association as a first-semester freshman, he initially wanted to keep his associations with Asian students strictly inside the club.”I tried not to be seen with them [Asians] in public as much … a huge obstacle I wanted to overcome was being labeled,” he said. Despite these fears, Leung said that gradual contact with the Asian American Association, its efforts to educate the community about diversity issues and the friendships he formed with members helped to change his mind. “I got to know a lot of people in the Asian American Association and became good friends with them,” he saidLeung said that several activities that he took part in as a freshman, such as the Learning to Talk About Races retreat in November 2002 and the In Focus Conference in February 2003, caused him to re-evaluate his personal views on ethnicity and his involvement in promoting cultural awareness on-campus.Leung said he encourages students of all ethnicities to broaden their exposure to different cultures.”People need to be challenged to step out of their comfort zone … to seek new experiences,” he said. “If you don’t actively seek [these], I think college is a wasteful experience.”