Jennifer Y., 20’s
Current Role: Teacher/Baker
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Asian & Korean.
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
I was born and raised in the U.S., but my family came to the U.S. in the 80's from South Korea. My mom's side of the family moved when she was 17 and was able to go to school here, along with her brothers.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
Some strengths of being Asian-American is having the best of both worlds: I feel so fortunate to have grown up all over the US and have diverse groups of friends while being able to have a strong connection with my Korean culture. I feel proud that I am bilingual and have two cultures be a part of who I am.
But some challenges are also being a part of two different cultures. My family identifies more strongly as Korean than American and we have culture and generational clashes because of the differences. I find myself being the bridge to my family in these aspects and it's not always easy…
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment is my career as a teacher (so far) and finding a place where I belong through that. I felt like I had a defined purpose that brought me a lot of joy and excitement on my first day of teaching. I am a fairly new teacher so I am still learning ways to hone my teaching skills, but I love that about my job. Even 1- or 20 years from now, I know I'll continue to grow and get better as a teacher. Not only are we educators, but we are also learners and what better way to teach than by example?
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
The importance of family time and spending it together. We always sit down and eat our meals together and I find that to be the most important part of my day now. Each of us have multiple things going in our lives, but when it comes to dinner time, it's a time we can all sit down together, chat, catch up, and unwind together. This is something I will do with my own family and instill the importance of this in my children.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I speak Korean! Growing up, my mom would only let me speak Korean at home because she believed I'd get plenty of chances to speak English outside of our house and home was the place where I'd get most, if not all, of my opportunities to speak Korean. As a kid, I remember if I spoke English, my mom (despite being fluent in English) would say, "What? What? I don't understand." and I knew that was my cue to switch to Korean. I'm really glad she forced me to speak it as a kid or else I don't think I'd be as connected to my Korean side as I am today. Without it, I wouldn't be able to communicate with my relatives in Korea or my grandma who I grew up with. While it's not necessary to be fluent to get in touch with my Korean culture, it definitely makes it easier.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
This is probably so cliche, but don't let anyone else define what success looks like for you. In college, I felt the need to conform and do certain things because of standards I had set for myself and indirectly set by others, it held me back for longer than it should have and while I am regretful at the time I wasted, I'm glad I decided to make my own choices when I did. Those stereotypes of what Asians are good at or what careers they should pursue are so harmful and so unnecessary. We need more Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander role-models in art, education, politics, etc. Do what you want!
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
There are so many things I find joy in, but I have found that it always connects back to my family and friends and I do it for them. I've found a lot of joy in my career and being able to help shape the next generation and sharing the knowledge that I have with them. I've found a lot of joy in baking! I get to bake a lot of fun and delicious treats for those around me and it's helped me reconnect with friends I haven't seen or spoken to in years. That has been a a true highlight of 2020 for me.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
I run a small bakery called, Peony Bakery! I didn't start it with the intention of turning it into a business, but because of the support of the community, it grew and I opened it officially this past spring! I make all kinds of things from cakes, macarons, cookies, and more. Our mochi cookies have been a hit. We are so grateful for everyone's love and we've done some community givebacks.
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Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
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