Tag Archives: new experience

What It Means to be Asian American

By Sarah Ta

[3 minute read]

My identity has always been something that I could never quite pin down. When I was younger, I believed that I knew myself inside and out, and thought I could predict what my future self would be like. As I’ve gotten older and just a little bit wiser, I can say for certain that my past self was wrong. I am constantly changing and even if I continue to use the same terms to describe myself, those terms hold an entirely different meaning to me now than they did five years ago. One of those terms is “Asian American”.

While I have always known that I was Asian and identified as such, I didn’t feel the need to specify that I was also American. After all, I knew I was born in the United States and since most of my elementary classmates were as well, it was just something we all accepted. It wasn’t until I moved the summer before 7th grade when the need to specify that I was American came about. I went from a predominantly Asian school to a predominantly Hispanic/Latino school and suddenly, me being American was no longer a given. It took several months of being questioned about whether I was born here and what my ethnicity was before things finally settled down and everyone moved on with their lives. However, their questioning left me more unsure of my own identity than I would have liked to admit. Just identifying as Asian no longer felt adequate enough, but with my limited vocabulary and knowledge, I pushed my small identity crisis aside and continued on with my carefree middle school days.

It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the term Asian American. By then, my little identity crisis had been almost forgotten. I don’t remember how I came across the term, but once I did, it was like a light bulb had lit up inside my head. That was the term that I had been unconsciously searching for since middle school, and finding it was like finding the missing piece to my identity puzzle. While I continue to identify as Asian American, the meaning of that term has changed since then. Being Asian American used to mean that while my ancestry was Asian, I was born here and so that made me American. There was a clear line between those two categories, but I just happened to be in both. Now, I realize that there is no line. Being Asian American is a melting pot of many different experiences and it is not something that can be easily separated into nice, neat categories. Even though it can be a confusing mess at times, it is one that I have never been more proud to be a part of, and every day I am learning more about my culture and how my identity shapes who I am.

Featured Image by Christina Boemio on Unsplash

Sarah is an undergraduate student from the San Gabriel Valley studying GeoDesign. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exploring L.A., trying new foods, and of course, meeting new people. She can speak conversational Cantonese, and is currently learning Mandarin. Even though her Chinese is limited, that doesn’t stop her from striking up a conversation with other international students. 

Facing a Changing Path with an Open Mind

By Vincent Yang

Starting something new can be quite daunting – whether it is starting a new job after quitting your first, settling in with a new roommate after moving out from your old college dorm, or declaring a new major after leaving your former field of interest. While those who are motivated by new challenges would be thrilled to charge into the great unknown, most people would feel apprehensive about stepping outside of their comfort zone and walking down a new path in their life. Let’s face it – fear is a primal human emotion that everyone has felt at least once in their lives, and facing uncertainty will arouse a degree of fear in anyone who is about to start something new. However, if you were faced with a situation where you had to decide whether to stick with the familiar ways of life that no longer interest you or to take a leap of faith towards a path untraveled, what would you do?

The year 2016 was a crucial yet tumultuous year in my academic career. Back then, I was a Ph.D. student in the field of Organic Chemistry. It was not that I was performing poorly academically, but more that I was losing interest in the field that I was working in. Having studied chemistry for 4 years throughout my undergraduate years and excelling academically in that field, I was convinced that chemical research was the right career path for me and remained in that field through graduate school. However, after my first year into the program I started to feel something was amiss. Even though my experiments and projects were going smoothly, the fervor I had when I first undertook my research project for faculty labs was no longer there, and nothing in this field seemed to stimulate me as much as it used to. In short, I was losing interest in the academic field I had centered my life around.

Photo from Unsplash

The loss of interest must have been quite obvious to others: My Primary Investigator (the person guiding me in my research project) and I had a long talk about this, and he suggested that maybe organic chemistry was not the right field for me. He proposed two options – if I truly thought chemistry was what I wanted to study, I could stay in his lab, but I would have to put more enthusiasm into my work; otherwise, I could switch disciplines to some other field in chemistry or find another academic field that interests me more. If I were to go with the latter option, I would either join a different research group of my interest in the chemistry department or leave the chemistry department altogether and join another department. That meant I would have to start over with a different project or delve into another unexplored academic field.

Throughout the 10 months after that discussion with my professor, my life went through a sharp turn of sorts. I would get into intermittent arguments with my family over my decision, fervent discussions with my friends in New York about possible options, and numerous advising sessions with various career/academic advising officers on campus to seek advice about what to do. For nearly 6 years of my life after high school graduation I had been studying only chemistry and related scientific disciplines and had no experience in any other field. Oftentimes I got conflicting suggestions from everyone: I had one person tell me that starting over completely in an undergraduate institution for a second bachelor’s degree could work out; another source told me that I should jump straight into the job market with a master’s degree in chemistry; a third suggestion was to seek a job in a different field other than chemistry after completing some useful certificate programs. Ultimately, the decision was up to me – I had to make a choice from all the options available to me based on my interests, priorities, and any constraining factors.

In the end, I decided to stick with advice from a close friend of mine and a family friend who worked as a software engineer in a Banking firm based in Manhattan: Learn how to program and look for a job as a programmer. When my friend first suggested this idea I found it to be quite preposterous: I didn’t know where to begin, had no idea how a computer program worked, and just looking at the work stations of engineering students scared the wits out of me. How on Earth would I learn how to code at all? Fortunately this good friend of mine was patient enough to direct me to the right points where I would learn the very basics of coding. He first directed me to Codeacademy, an online website dedicated to teaching various programming languages to people who wished to begin programming. It wasn’t a major step, like attending a boot camp for programmers and jumping straight into the job market, but it was a start. After taking several online courses, I found them quite engrossing and decided to continue learning and laying down the groundwork for understanding how to write a program.

Continue reading Facing a Changing Path with an Open Mind

Quarantine Gardening Misadventures

By Sarah Selke

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Over the past few weeks, which have consisted of staying primarily at home, I – like many others – have taken up a new hobby. I have attempted to acquire a green thumb. After ordering several beefsteak tomatoes, some marigolds, and a couple of eggplants from a local garden center, I began tending to my plants on a near daily basis. Within just a week, the tomato plants proved to be a success with dozens of flowers and green fruit hanging on their branches. The eggplants in the corner were sprouting large leaves and appeared to be developing at a rapid rate. The marigolds planted next to the two harvestable plants not only gave the vegetable bed a lovely splash of color but were also meant to aid in the tomatoes’ growth. Everything seemed to be going as planned.

One morning, I noticed two marigolds missing from the garden. Upon closer inspection, I realized that not only had the flowers been consumed, their entire roots had been dragged out of the soil. In addition, several large holes had appeared in the eggplants’ leaves. Perplexed by the source of this destruction, I began looking online for answers. While the marigolds had to have been uprooted by a rather large animal, the holes in the eggplant leaves suggested that they had been eaten by slugs. This required two rather complicated solutions in order to prevent further attacks on the garden. One of these was to build a wired fence around the entire vegetable bed; the other was to place small cans of essential oil mixtures next to the eggplants in order to repel the slugs.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As it turns out, getting rid of the slugs was not a terribly difficult task, as many of them were later found in the oil mixtures. However, building a fence was a more tedious job, which required numerous attempts to complete. Once finally finished, I was quite confident that my vegetables and marigolds were now safe. Nevertheless, the next morning I was in for yet another surprise. All the remaining marigolds as well as one of the eggplants had been completely eaten. Utterly clueless as to the cause of my garden’s demolition, I scavenged the internet once again for answers. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that gophers were responsible for eating most of the plants. Unfortunately, they are much harder to get rid of, and of course there was hardly anything left for them to consume. After digging around, I discovered a large hole near where the marigolds had once been and flooded it with water and cotton balls that had been soaked in peppermint oil. Although in retrospect it is hard to say whether this would have worked in repelling them from my plants, at least there has been no further damage to the tomatoes. 

Ultimately, while gardening may seem like a rather simple and relaxing hobby to pick up, it can be quite demanding if one is unaware of potential obstacles. Perhaps the easiest thing to grow for beginner gardeners are alliums, which include green onions and garlic. These can even be grown indoors, which make them the perfect plant to cultivate while stuck inside during the pandemic. Here’s a brief article for how to grow scallions in just a glass of water: https://www.allrecipes.com/article/save-money-diy-fresh-green-onions/.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Maybe you too can pick up gardening to keep you occupied during quarantine! If you do not have an outdoor space to garden in, you can always buy an indoors terrarium and grow succulents to begin to cultivate your green thumb. Happy gardening!

Featured image by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

Sarah is majoring in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She was born in the Los Angeles area and has lived there much of her life. In addition to English, she has some background in Mandarin Chinese, French, and basic German. In her free time, she likes reading, listening to music, photography, and cooking. Sarah went to Beijing last summer and experienced having one-on-one conversations with other local students learning English. She hopes to continue improving her Chinese and French and is interested in teaching English as a foreign language someday. Feel free to reach out to Sarah if you need any help with your English language skills.