You need to find a 1.5 or 2nd generation individual (they must have grown up in the
United States and have at least one immigrant parent) to interview about their
assimilation experience. The questions here are a good guide for your conversation,
but you should also feel free to add your own questions that reflect your own
interests or the specific experiences of your respondent. It is best to record your
interview and later transcribe it. Alternately, you can take extensive notes during
the interview. (If you record it, you might think about giving it to your respondent
after you write your paper, it is a nice record of their experiences that they might
want to keep or give to their children or grandchildren someday.)
Your paper should summarize your respondent’s experiences and analyze those
experiences using the theoretical and empirical material from the class. Focus on
one or two important aspects of their experience. For example, what type of
immigrant is the respondent or their parents (refugee, economic migrant,
undocumented migrant), and what impact, if any, did that have on his/her
incorporation? What was the context of reception he/she faced? What kinds of
racial or ethnic identities did he/she develop? Did he/she face discrimination and if
so how did he/she react to it? How did the local context (city or suburb, high
concentration or low concentration of other immigrants) affect his/her
incorporation? How did gender affect his/her experiences growing up in an
immigrant household? What are the trends of intergenerational change from the
parents’ generation? Are the children going to do better than the parents? What
institutions or organizations affect their experiences? How did their experiences in
U.S. schools affect their experiences?
You should tell your respondent the purpose of the interview, that you will not use
their name in your paper (you should use a pseudonym), and that you will not keep
their name on the recording/transcript (if you make one) or your notes. You should
explain that this is just for a school assignment and won’t be used for any other
Length 5-6 pages (approximately 1500 words) (NOT including interview
transcript/notes, which must be attached to your paper, or your list of references)
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1. When did your family first come to the United States?
2. How old were you? Were you born here or did you come as a child?
3. Did you come by yourself or with other family members?
4. Did you visit first, or come to live?
5. Why did your family come? Did they intend to stay?
6. What country did they come from? Were both of your parents from the
same country? Were both parents immigrants?
7. Do you know what kind of visa they had? (Tourist, work, green card, refugee,
8. How hard was it for them to get permission to come into the US? (or to get
into the US, if they came without papers)?
9. What was it like for them when they first arrived? Where did they live?
Why did they settle there? Did they know other people there?
10. Do you know what they had heard about the U.S. before you came?
11. Can you remember any things about the US that surprised them?
12. What were the greatest challenges your family faced after immigrating?
13. If your parents had it to do over again, would they make the decision to
come to the US?
CULTURE & IDENTITY
14. Have you been to visit your parents’ country?
15. Would you ever want to go live there?
16. What language did you speak with your parents growing up? What language
do you speak at home now? How did you learn to speak English? How well can
you speak your parents’ language? When and where do you speak it? What
language do you prefer to speak?
17. Have you experienced any negative feelings or prejudice or discrimination
from other people in the US? If so, what do you think caused it (race,
language, ethnicity, poverty, jealousy)?
18. When someone asks about your race or ethnicity what do you usually say? Do
you identify strongly as that race/ethnicity?
19. Do you think of yourself as an American?
20.What does it mean to be an American?
21. Are most of your friends from the same ethnic group as you? If not, what
ethnic or racial groups do they identify as?
22. Do you participate in any ethnic organizations or clubs? If so, what impact
has that had on you? (for instance, has it shaped your identity?)
23. Do you think Americans have a stereotype or idea about your group? What
would it be?
24. Have your parents become citizens? Why or why not?
25. Have you voted in elections? Why or why not?
26. Are you or your parents still a citizen of the sending country? Can you be a
citizen in both places?
27. How does that work?
EDUCATION AND WORK
28.What is the highest level of education you received?
29.Why do you think you went as far as you did in school?
30.What were your experiences like going to school in the U.S.? Did you ever
attend school in another country? How was it different?
31. How much education do you think your parents wanted/want you to get? Is
this something you talked about a lot with them growing up?
32.What is your current occupation?
33.What kinds of jobs have you had in the past?
34.What have your experiences been like in the labor force?
35.What goals do you have for the future in terms of work/career?
36. Do you consider yourself successful? What does success mean to you? Do
you think your parents consider you successful?
37.What was the highest level of education of your parents? Was that in the
US or in the sending country?
38.What did/do your parents do for a living? Did you ever consider doing the
same type of work as your parents?
FAMILY AND GENDER DYNAMICS
39. Do you share many of the same views as your parents or do you feel that you
and your parents clash a lot? What types of conflicts do you have/ did you
have growing up?
40. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Were their experiences
growing up similar to yours? Did your parents treat all of you the same?
41. Do you feel that being male/female has made it harder or easier for you to
achieve your goals? How so?
42. Is there anything else you would like to tell me about your experience as a
child of an immigrant?