Sharing personal stories and advice, about 25 students grappled with how they can maintain their Asian identity without isolating themselves from the rest of the community. The Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity sponsored the event, which was open to the public. Lambda Phi Epsilon President Jonson Chen, opened the forum by warning freshmen that as minorities, they might encounter prejudice at the University. "Some time during your stay at Penn, you'll probably come across a bad experience," Chen said. "It might make you develop hatred and spite toward a race or group of people, which is hard to handle. "Better than penting it up inside, find someone to talk to about it," Chen added. "There are plenty of organizations here to help you deal with it." While many at the event recounted times when they heard racist comments directed at them, others seemed more concerned with balancing their friendships with Asian and non-Asian students. Students encouraged each other to pursue friendships with people representing various backgrounds. But many also agreed that while they started with a diverse group of friends, their circle gradually narrowed to include mostly Asians. "I like to use my native language," said Wharton junior Mike Hsu, who was born in Taiwan. "And a lot of the things I like other Asian people like too. It's hard to listen to Chinese music with non-Chinese people." Some described a common tendency to hang out with mainly Asian students as a cycle, while usually unintentional, that keeps repeating itself. Because of their common background, Asian students said they often feel most comfortable together. Therefore other students might feel reluctant to approach what seems to be an exclusive group. "There's definitely a clique mentality here, but you don't have to interact in that group," College senior Elliot Hyun said. "It's all a matter of how you view yourself." Chen and Kwon then asked the students why they categorize themselves as Asian American and what stereotypes accompany that classification. Students freely yelled out common stereotypes -- such as knowing karate, wearing glasses and being good at math. "When we were playing basketball the other day, a white guy said as he was running down the court that he didn't know who to guard because all Asians look the same," Hyun said. But others said Asians at times can perpetuate their own stereotypes -- particularly the notion that all Asians are overachievers. Wharton senior Jake Hsu said his family's history has a considerable influence on how he approaches his education. "I feel a lot of guilt because I know what my parents went through to come here," said Hsu, who emigrated from Taiwan when he was 11 months old. "I know they gave so much to me. I owe it to them to choose a career that will make them happy."
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