Audio Recording of Interview
Born to Cambodian refugees in the United States, Patrick describes his experience as a first-generation American and his relationship to his family. He explains how he found ways to learn about and connect with Cambodian history, and discusses the power of asking questions and storytelling.
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Narrator: Patrick Barry
Location: Camden NJ and Washington DC (via zoom)
Summary: Born to Cambodian refugees in the United States, Patrick describes his experience as a first-generation American and his relationship to his family. He explains how he found ways to learn about and connect with Cambodian history, and discusses the power of asking questions and storytelling.
Topics: friendship, Cambodian culture, family, connection, communism, refugee experience.
Section 1: (00:00 - 8:02)
Family Origins: Patrick’s family are all Cambodian refugees. He grew up speaking cambodian. His family had experienced a civil war in Cambodia from 1975-1978. Patrick did not fully understand his family's experiences growing up because there was a lot left unsaid. But he definitely felt as though he had a different experience than some of those from his school.
Travel to Cambodia: Patrick had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia and before going he thought he would follow in the family tradition of being a pharmacist, but after going to Cambodia he realized he was much more interested in policy and service to making people in a better place.
Connecting his own perceptions: Growing up surrounded by many different stories and perspectives Patrick had to draw his own conclusions about different themes and topics to which he was given no context. Because of this he had a different perspective growing up and felt different from some people surrounding him.
Section 2: (8:02- 23:56)
Learning more about his family: Patrick learned what it meant to be a refugee from his mom describing as someone who cannot come home. Because of this he drew a very abstract understanding of what it means to be a refugee. However he still was unable to really recognize or identify the trauma his family faced when they fled cambodia.
Finding avenues to learn: Because his family did not spend much time discussing the trauma they faced, Patrick used his history projects in High School in order to better understand the history of the country. Additionally his tutor noticed a stronger interest in history rather than calculus and because of that he focused more on Cambodian history. Doing these projects showed him how much he didn't know and reflected on some aspects of what it means and what is prioritized growing up in the US.
South Jersey: Growing up in South Jersey Patirck both found a strong community and appreciation of different cultures and foods along with people misunderstanding or not understanding his experience as a child of a refugee family. However Patrick emphasizes the value and beauty of growing up in a place with so many different cultures and perspectives.
Sports: Patrick found the ability to connect through most kids his age through sports and simply finding ways to play. This allowed him to spend a lot of time with lots of a kids and really be able to connect with them.
Section 3: (23:56- 31:25)
Family religious identity: Patrick grew up both going to Temple and Catholic services on the weekend so his weekends were very busy. He describes how many family members were very religious and that his grandma actually recorded cassettes of service to have a whole library for herself.
Communication/language: Patrick’s great grandmother never learned English when moving to the US however Patirck describes this way that she continued to communicate with neighbors through simply talking to them and through gestures and tone indicating her story or thoughts on the weather. This also meant that Patrick would accompany his grandmother to doctor appointments to translate.
The power of asking questions: Patrick discusses how he does not talk about a lot of things with his family. But there is a distinct value in asking questions (like in this interview) because otherwise one would not be able to learn or express everything they feel.
Section 4: (31.25- 49:24)
Sources of Happiness: Patrick discusses his apartment complex and all the people he met and connected with and that knew him and looked after him brought him such a sense of belonging. His community was a strong sense of community and strong memories of happiness from his childhood.
Memories of Cambodia: Patrick discusses memories of traveling Cambodia with his close friends and flying a kite on a slow moving train. He describes it as a perfect day and memory.
Ultimate takeaways: We have far more in common than we are different. And everyone has the ability to connect with people. Additionally he talks about the cycle of becoming “new americans” for immigrants and how everyone has the ability to find their place.
Hearing many people’s stories: The opportunity to hear many people’s stories and understand everyone’s different journeys. Ultimately he concludes that telling stories and hearing stories is one of the most important ways to understand the world better.