Spring Break is finally here! We hope you all have fun plans in store for next week, and one of the fun things you should be doing is checking out our 4th APA Leader, Jackie Chao! Jackie is an energetic and hardworking individual, presides over KASA, and actively sheds light on APA and minority issues to her members. Check out more about Jackie in our interview below:
Name: Jacqueline Chao Major: Computer Science/Business Administration Year: Junior
What does being APA mean to you? This is such a difficult question and I’m not quite sure how to answer this, so let’s throw it back a bit for context. My ancestors (lol) are originally from the Shandong province of China, but had been living in South Korea since the late 1800s. Fast forward to the 60s-70s, the South Korean government placed property ownership limitations on foreigners, and even though my grandmother was 4th generation Korean-born, she’s still racially Chinese and was therefore considered a foreigner. On top of that, the fam was scared another war was about to break out and because they owned jjajangmyun shops in Incheon, were like… BBHMM but not worth. So they dipped.
In comes red, white, blue, and well… me. When I was young I went to both Chinese school and hangul hakkyo, but I always felt awkward and out of place. The Korean kids made fun of my last name, and the Chinese kids thought my food smelled bad all the time. Also, my family was very anti-Korean (because of the severe discrimination they experienced), so it was weird to be vehemently branded Chinese but then watch the adults play hwatu at Thanksgiving and see my g-ma pop a squat over a big red bucket and make bomb af kimchi every month. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty cool to grow up in a mixed cultural environment looking back now, but at the time it was just confusing as hell. After a while, I gave up and decided I was “American” because it was easier and puberty was enough to deal with.
Growing up in Dallas (where all the APAs flourish obviously), I understood a very specific narrative of who I should be, how I should live, and what I should do. Essentially, the ethno-cultural paradigm I lived in was extremely binary: Chinese or Korean. So in my adolescence, I didn’t understand why or how I was different, nor did I make it a priority to understand my heritage and cultural identity. I conflated the ethnic complexities that made me me not only for the sake of others’ convenience, but also for my own. How could I explain to the world who I was, when I had no idea who I was?
My APA identity was always something I struggled with, and I realized that understanding myself starts with differentiating and understanding my cultural upbringing. What does being APA mean to me? It means finding my own voice and identity outside of the one ascribed to me. It means taking the time to sit down, sort through all the noise, and figure out who I am and who I want to be, not who I should be. It means being genuine to myself and keeping it 100 because if not to me then who? I’m still figuring it out of course, but at least I have one thing down: I am Chinese-Korean American.
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. I’ve been involved with KASA (Korean American Student Association) for most of my college career now and it’s freaking great. Here’s my spiel: KASA functions pretty much like a co-ed frat that provides a community to people who understand (or are interested in) the cultural nuances of being Korean American. Because we don’t feel marginalized or out of place, we’re able to provide a social environment that somewhat perpetuates the quintessential college experience we all want, which is typically denied to us because we’re not, well… white. As President this year, this is something I’ve been super conscientious about. Although it’s not explicit activism in any way, my goal is for people to feel like they have a community to look to if they want a comfortable social space or learn about a culture with and from friends.
In my own time, I like to keep updated with APA politics, fashion, music, and pop culture in general. But for the most part—KASA is life.
What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? Be broccoli. It’s easy to get caught up in the superficiality of things every once and a while, but if you’re doing something to get likes, that makes you ramen (the really good Korean instant kind). Everyone likes ramen—it’s tasty, satisfying, and cheap but is also so bad for people in the long run. Broccoli is healthy and genuine. Most people like it, and if they don’t it’s their loss. Stay true to the convictions you hold dear and always keep yourself in check. Titles don’t make leaders, and if you’re honest, kind, and sincere, people will naturally gravitate toward you. Don’t just be good to people, be good for people.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave at USC? I still have a year left at SC, but I feel like it’s flown by so fast already (basic, I know). The four years we have to live this experience is so rare and so special, I don’t want it to be temporary and disappear after graduation. I want to have built something permanent. Something—material or social— I can come back to in 10, 25, or 50 years and say, “Damn, it’s still there.” I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me thus far, and I want current and future Trojans (especially the APA ones) to have the same life-changing, self-actualizing, euphoric experience. The culmination of hard work all generations of APA Trojan leaders before me made my time here that much more phenomenal, so it’s my turn to play my part and pass the torch.
What motivates and inspires you? My guardian angel, one and only, showstoppin bad b, sister Becky. She’s the constant in my life and gives me the love, support and confidence I need to put myself out there. She defies all laws of gravity and pushes me to be a better person every day. Love you Jeh.
If you could meet anyone from the past, the present, or the future, who would you want to meet and why? William Chao. I wish he could be here now so he can see how much I’ve grown. I want to make him proud.
Emily Jiang: Thank you for always being there for me when I need you most. I couldn’t have asked for a better Co-President, and you deserve so much credit for the work you’ve done for KASA and APA community as a whole. This organization would literally be nothing without you, and I can’t wait to see the results of your lasting impact in the future. I hope you’re having fun in London, and I’m excited to see you when you come back.
Shelby Matsumura: KASA’s fearless Vice President. Thank you for always having my back and being unapologetically yourself 24/7. I can’t imagine staff without you. Love you dude.
Connie Hur: I know you put this together, so I just want to say thank you really quick. You’ve grown so much since freshman year and I’m so incredibly proud of the person you are today. Luh yuh bruh.
Helen Lee, Pauline Na, David Choi, Bellamy Yoo, Rachel Kwon, Justin Moon, Rachelle Choi, Brittnay Hong, Josh Jamison, Tim Suh, Sarah Kim, Courtney Cho, Lisa Lee, Nicc Hernandez, Chris Cho, Seung Woo Choi: Thank you all so much for holding it down and being the best staff EVER. I know I always get tender, but I actually love y’all so much. You all have SO much potential and I’m seriously so excited for the things to come for KASA. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to call family. <3
Michelle Seo, Jason Lee, Glara Choi, Sophiea Kim, Justin Kang, Howard Lee, Josh Byun, Kevin Sung: Thank you so much for everything you’ve done. I seriously wouldn’t even be in KASA if not for y’all. I’ll be so sad when you graduate, but I know you all will move on to big things and I can’t wait.
Thank you again to Jackie and all the APA leaders so far for taking time out of their busy schedules for our photoshoot and interview. Everyone has been so busy with midterms, and we really admire everyone for putting so much thought and effort into their responses. We are so lucky to have all of you involved in the APA community! Hope you guys all have a great Spring Break because y'all definitely deserve it!
Also, today is the LAST DAY TO NOMINATE, so if you know any potential APA Leaders, the form will close at midnight: http://goo.gl/forms/bTCTJhz9Rx