With the kickoff of APAHF (Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival) a couple weeks ago, we are proud to begin announcing our 2017 APA Leaders! Every year USC APASA recognizes several passionate, inspiring individuals in the USC community and presents them with this award. It’s also not too late yet for nominations, so if you know any potential APA Leaders please nominate them by Friday here: https://goo.gl/forms/SnMvO4cRsB5MUFTA2 .
Anyways, we are excited to introduce our first APA Leader for 2017, Andy Gu! Andy Gu is currently the SCAPE Co-President, a PEER Mentor, and was a CIRCLE TA. Learn more about how passionate and involved Andy Gu is in his interview below!
Name: Andy Gu
Major: Computer Science, Philosophy
What does being APA mean to you?
For me, being APA meant being a part of my community’s stories. I learned most of them when I was fighting (or making up) with my mom – stories about her sacrifice, things she gave up to find a better life for me, and her regrets and nostalgia for the places where she called home. Since I came to USC, a large part of my growth has come from finding out how I navigate my family and community’s stories and things I can do to figure out what role I play in them.
Specifically, I got a couple important lessons from the stories I was privileged to have. My identity means being a loved by a rich community that has shaped me to be who I am. It means being caught in the love of people who took the time to mentor me and called me out when I wasn’t responsible for myself and others. Most importantly, I think my heritage will always be an experience of growth. The history that I draw upon always encourages me to have the empathy and willingness to listen to others and keep an open mind.
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus.
Currently, I'm co-president of SCAPE with Constance Chan, who drives the vision of the organization and makes this organization possible.
I was also a CIRCLE TA last fall. You should join CIRCLE. It’s a seven-week education and leadership program that creates dialogue about historic and contemporary issues in the API community and builds leadership skills for students. I had a really good time.
Last spring, I worked off-campus at an immigration clinic in Chinatown by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, where I helped someone else a lot more knowledgeable than I teach a class about applying for residency and citizenship.
Apart from that, I’m involved in various APASS programs, being a Student Welcome Advisor and a PEER mentor (shoutout to my bbs Jacky and Justin).
What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders?
I think I’d tell people to trust their gut. I remember a year ago, I literally did not know what I was doing. I would always compare myself to people who were doing really great work in the community, and that was really toxic for me until I realized that everybody’s different and effective in their own way. I feel like this was one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over in SCAPE, carrying a legacy that was created by all these really inspiring people who were role models for me. Sometimes, I still don’t know what I’m doing about half the time. I realized, though, that the most important thing for me was learning to accept myself and my flaws and work towards holding myself accountable instead of comparing myself to other people. No matter what I do, I’m not really going to be the same person as those I was comparing myself to. I think everyone leads differently (I’m hardly a leader), and acceptance of that was so so important. Every year for me was a really important growth experience, and I want to keep trusting in my gut and learning new things every year.
Another thing I’d tell them is to be responsible for your folks. Take it from someone who was chronically irresponsible for years. It really made me an ineffective friend and messed up my interpersonal relationships. I learned about that first hand, but, hey, now you don’t have to.
Tell us how you got here. How did you first get involved with the APA community?
I didn't know much about my identity before I came to USC. My involvement with the community started when I joined CIRCLE my freshman year, which is a 7-week leadership and education program that taught me about API identity, history, and community issues. Highly recommend it. I didn’t even retreat at the end the first time around because I was really sick, and it was still worth it. I learned so much about myself and met people who were so passionate about their communities, and they’ve been mentors and role models for me ever since. It was such a good time that I came back a second year, as a CIRCLE TA.
I feel like after I did CIRCLE, I had this big “so what now?” feeling that encouraged me to try to find more ways to engage with my community. From the help of a lot of mentors I’ve had on and off campus, I really was able to grow learn more about the history from where I came from and how to be sensitive to the stories of others. And that’s why I’m here now!
What kind of legacy do you want to leave at USC?
Haha, I haven’t really ever thought about this. I think one of the things I’ve always valued as a leader was being accessible to others. Especially because when I was a freshman, seeing all these smart, well-spoken people really shook my confidence in advocacy and question whether I would fit in. And that accessibility is a part of myself which I constantly have to examine, whether it be being available to others, the things I commit to, or myself.
That’s probably why working towards a space / community where people aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. That was a big learning curve for me and a small / big / medium-sized goal I always ask myself if I’m contributing positively towards. It’s hard to create spaces where people can brave when you’re not thinking about the way you might be making that space harder for others to access, and something I’m pretty guilty of once in a while. Especially this year, through all the passionate / capable / knowledgeable bbs I’ve come into contact with, that’s the kind of space I want to leave behind (hehe even if it wasn’t really the legacy I’m leaving. Community is a group effort.)
All money aside, what is your dream job?
This is kind of dull, but I wanted to work in the immigration sector for a while. I actually wanted to be an immigration lawyer when I was a young bean sprout, my grandma kept getting her visa denied. However, my mom was really young and still working to support herself in the states, so I never really got to live with my parents until I emigrated from China in elementary school. I think those brief years have been integral to my identity ever since and really contextualized what I wanted to do with my life. I realize that a lot of people nowadays are having the same struggles my parents did when they immigrate, and I wanted to do something to make it less traumatic for others.
I realize that nowadays b/c of time and financial constraints that dream is a little harder every year, but you know, maybe someday.
If you could give a TED Talk, what would it be about?
Making boba. To be honest, I only made boba once, and it was pretty bad because I didn’t boil the balls for long enough, but I’ve drunk enough boba in my lifetime to know enough about it. There was this place which my friend’s mom owned that was next to my house and it was literally $1 for a cup, so there was a solid three month period where boba was in my body every twenty-four hours. I’m pretty sure my body shut down that year of high school. Thanks wangjona and co.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank or give a shoutout to?
circle peeps: thanks for taking the time to help me grow into my
identity and find the things that are important to me. I wouldn't be
close to where I am mentally without y'alls help!
scape peeps, past and present: thanks for accepting me and teaching me
how to get more involved in my community, how to approach people, and
how to be more responsible for myself. I appreciate all the love that
you've given me these 3 years and I hope I can come close to repaying
const: thanks for making all of this possible. thanks for making sure
we stay to our mission / vision, picking up the slack when we forget,
and pointing out areas of growth. You've been such a great friend and
source of support.
all those folks who filled a form out: i feel all warm in my heart.
Thanks for believing in this dumpster fire and thinking that I can do
cool things. I am so humbled by that and want to be your friend.
mom/dad: hi mom/dad
Thanks Andy so much for letting us interview you during this busy week even when you had four midterms. We are so lucky to have you so involved in our APA community!