As a baby, I was adopted from China by a single Jewish mom. I became a US citizen, an Asian American, upon landing at San Francisco International Airport. Growing up my multicultural identity was complicated. People asked, “Is that your Mom, you don’t look alike?” or “How can you be Jewish if you’re Chinese?” I felt judged by others because being adopted and both Chinese and Jewish was different. My mother always encouraged my connection to both cultures. I stuffed my face with mooncakes for Chinese New Year and challah bread for the Jewish New Year.
In high school, I realized I didn’t need to choose between my two cultures. I am proud to be bilingual in Mandarin and English. I made several trips to China and during one of them, I visited my orphanage and met my Chinese foster parents. I learned about the people and culture of my birthplace, Fuling, Chongqing, from its spicy pickled cabbage to its historical roots as a river town. I am also proud to celebrate Jewish holidays with my Mom, from lighting candles on the menorah every Hanukkah to eating matzah during Passover. I value that both my Chinese and Jewish cultures honor family, community, and education. I have come to revel in my cultural richness. I embraced both, becoming more self-confident, flexible, and learning to think outside of the box.
I chose to surround myself with diversity and joined a community that celebrated differences and self-expression; the colorful world of jazz. Starting out, I was the only female Asian-American trumpet player in the Berkeley High Jazz Program. I collaborate with fellow musicians and compete at jazz festivals. I use improvisation as an inside joke, like playing quotes from a transcribed solo of another jazz artist. Only people who play or listen to a lot of jazz notice. Other times, I play something recognizable in my solos, like the beginning of the infamous Pink Panther theme song; then everyone understands the joke. Music allows me to showcase my fun side by reflecting my humor in my solos. Jazz has taught me to interpret the music how I wish, and that it’s my individuality that flows through that makes the music special. This connects to how I view my multicultural identity, defining how I wish to interpret and display it. As a female Asian-American jazz trumpet player, I also delight in mentoring other girls of color during the annual high school jazz day for the past four years.
I connect to my cultural roots by playing the Chinese erhu since I was seven years old. Currently, I am a member of the Great Wall Youth Orchestra. As part of the program, I have taken more than 35 concurrent high school units at Laney College. I have performed in over 25 concerts including at Laney College Performance Art Center, a Block Party in Oakland with Yo-Yo Ma, and the 150th Anniversary of Marin China Camp, a Chinese shrimp village.
For my non-traditional Bat Mitzvah, I represented both my cultures by blowing into a shofar, made of goat’s horn, and probably being the first person to play a popular Jewish song on the Chinese erhu. When I am playing the erhu or the trumpet, listening to a jazz performance, or sharing a song with a friend, I am in my element. Performing music from and in other cultures, especially China and Cuba, inspires me to want to learn about and engage with people from around the world.
I plan to study ethnomusicology at UCLA. I will not only deepen my interest in Asian music but also explore music from different regions through Music Around the World. I will continue to perform in music ensembles and connect performance and scholarship. In the future, I am interested in a career in which music intersects with other art forms such as architecture, designing an indoor-outdoor music pavilion for people to enjoy music in a public space.
I also plan to double major in Architecture/Design. My multiculturalism encourages me to be creative. Currently, I have a paid internship at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, with a focus on art, culture, and social activism. Last summer at the University of California, Berkeley's, School of Environmental Design I was awarded a scholarship to attend embARC. Through this exciting program, I created 3D structures in Rhino 6, a design software, and used Adobe Illustrator to edit floor plans. I completed individual projects such as designing a pavilion meant to elevate the surrounding environment and creating plans for my own tiny house. My focus was on incorporating inside-outside living space to display the natural environment. The program highlighted the process of bringing my own ideas to life and encouraged me to become an innovative and collaborative thinker. I considered my design uses, concentrating on the finer details of architecture like composition, materials, and building placement. I also pitched a design to improve homeless people's lives in Berkeley, specifically equipping public restrooms with free showers and drinking water stations. I also included longer park benches for sleeping areas and sculptures that could double as shade or shelter from the rain. There are many factors to consider in an architectural design such as public use, access for people with disabilities, as well as environmental and health effects. My goal is to use architecture as a tool for social change. Creating living spaces for me is more than designing a beautiful building; as an international adoptee, it's about making sure everyone has a place to live or a “home” and helping others in need while collaborating with diverse colleagues from around the world.
I look forward to creating a new community at UCLA, sharing my multiculturalism with new friends while relating to our similarities and learning about our differences. I have learned the value of sharing my own uniqueness with the world. I am Jewish. I am Asian American. I am adopted. I am a daughter. I am proud.