AB Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 2022

From Tuscaloosa, AL

“When I was young, I wasn’t proud of being Chinese. Growing up in the deep South, I became used to being a black sheep. It’s exhausting to always be the odd one out. I remember trying my hardest to minimize the ̔Chinese’ and maximize the ̔American’ part of myself. The same food that I scarfed down at home, I snuck bites from at carefully calculated times in the cafeteria, too afraid to even take the container out of my lunchbox. The language I casually spoke at home, I whispered in public, afraid of being labeled ̔loud,’ ̔annoying,’ or ̔other.’ I began to change my mind in high school, especially watching my brother, who embraced being Chinese, and challenged my fear of my identity with his casual comments, like that he’d rather visit China than, say, Australia, or that I should seek a Chinese community in college. Sure enough, I began searching for a Chinese community a few years ago and have continued the search on campus, relishing moments when I get to speak Mandarin to others, have conversations with friends that erupt with laughter when we land on uniquely Chinese experiences, like bartering, or join organizations on campus with lively debates about a subject I value: China, in all forms. I’m also interested in the China seminar because of its focus on contemporary society, especially at this point in a time of intersection between the past and present. I’ve always been fascinated by subtle quirks of culture that I’ve never known whether to attribute to differences in culture or age: different values, different assumptions, etc. They themselves seem to stand at the intersection of past and present, something I’ll notice when my mom shakes her head at beauty trends in mainland China or my cousins laugh when I list the few Chinese songs that I know, which are usually at least 10 years old. I hope to gain from this program a deeper understanding of where China’s been, where China stands now, and where China’s going, and the culture characteristics that underpin these shifts.”