Hope everyone has had a happy and restful summer so far! We are so excited to shine our Senior Spotlight on Sara Chen, whose hard work and dedication as this year's Programming Director of APASA has made our events so amazing and wonderful. Thank you, Sara, and good luck on your future endeavors!
Read Sara's interview below!
What does being APA mean to you?
I was born and raised in Taiwan but was brought up in an American culture and education. Before coming to America for college, I used to identify myself as Asian American; however, at USC, I’ve discovered ‘Asian Americans’ are labeled for those who grew up in America. I have USC friends who would jokingly call me a fob, which makes me wonder about my own cultural identity. If you listen carefully, I actually have an accent. In the past I would deny and even hide my accent, believing that people will look down on me and not take me seriously. Being involved in several APA organizations has helped me realize that the USC APA community is where I can talk about my differences with others and embrace those of others’ around me. It was the people that I met in Sigma Phi Omega (Simgas), KASA Freshman Dance Off (Dance Off), Taiwanese American Organization (TAO), and APASA that encouraged me to develop the confidence to express myself through a new medium and eventually integrate myself into this open-minded community.
So if you ask me ‘what does being APA mean to you?’, I’d say it means being in one of the most compassionate communities. APA isn’t just one absolute cultural identity. It is a spectrum because many individuals grew up differently. Some may be more exposed to one culture than the other. Being APA allows me to accept others differences as others are interested in learning mine. I’m really grateful for this community, and hopefully we are able to grow and influence others as well.
Explain your involvement in the APA community; and specifically APASA?
I have been extensively involved in the APA community in my four years of college. In my freshman year, I joined Sigmas, an Asian-interest sorority. It was founded to create a safe space for Japanese American women due to discrimination after WWII. I also joined Dance Off, a dance team created for freshmen in the fall semester. Although it’s not strictly catered to the APA community, most freshmen tend to be APA. Towards the end of my freshman year, I joined TAO, cultural organization that shares Taiwanese culture on campus. The people I met in these organizations helped me ease in my freshman year in college, and I hoped to do the same for future incoming students. Fast forward to junior year, I served as President of Sigmas and TAO and head coordinator of Dance Off, and I was New Member Director for Sigmas during my last semester of senior year. During the summer of 2017, I interned at Kollaboration, a non-profit organization that supports API artists. It was truly rewarding to see so many talented artists and active volunteers supporting our cause.
I joined TAO executive board as the Director of External Affairs, aka an APASA rep. I started attending APASA meetings, and they were really fun because I got to meet reps from other member organizations. The good thing was that a lot of the reps did Dance Off with me, so meetings were never boring to me. A few of my favorite meetings include the collaborated general meeting with Black Student Assembly, Kollaboration as special guest and banquet. Attending APASA meetings have shaped my vision for leading Sigmas and TAO. I pushed for more collaborated events with other APASA organizations because I see the value in them. My connection with APASA does not just end there. I became Programming Director my last year of college because I wanted to create greater influence and have a bigger platform on campus. As APASA Programming Director, I was in charge of planning the six big APASA events: Welcome Back BBQ, Kickoff Concert, Night Market, Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival (APAHF) Extravaganza, Speakers Event, and APASA’s Got Talent. It’s hard for me to choose my favorite event, but APAHF Extravaganza was definitely my most memorable event.
What has been your favorite part of APASA?
Definitely the people. I’ve met so many amazing and welcoming people in APASA. I also enjoyed seeing APASA executive board members and interns help put together the events so passionately. They are the reason why I want to put in more effort. Not saying that I personally wouldn’t, but they are my externally motivating factors. As I was never part of APASA executive board before, Michelle Su was always so helpful in helping me understand all the logistics done in the past for certain events. I also had no idea how an APASA executive board and intern relationship should be like, so I’m grateful to have such an understanding intern, Monica Yen, to allow me to guide her unknowingly. I’m so excited to see where APASA will be heading with the new executive board, and I sincerely wish them luck.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave at USC?
I want to leave behind a legacy of cultural acceptance and a compassionate community. Even though APAHF has ended, I still hope everyone will continue to strengthen our community and embrace each other’s differences.
For the organizations that I have been involved in, I hope they continue to thrive and grow on campus. I look forward to more people joining TAO, simply curious about Taiwanese culture even if they are not of Taiwanese descent. I look forward to see Dance Off continue to be many freshmen’s amazing first college experience. I look forward to the future that Sigmas will not have any AGC stigma and will be known for its beautiful sisterhood and passionate, fierce, and driven girls. Lastly, I look forward to see APASA continue to build our community.
As a graduating senior, what advice do you have for underclassmen?
Make sure you cherish the times you have in college because time goes by so fast when you are having fun. Also don’t get too tied down with your academics because you should still explore the organizations on campus. Those are what made my college experience memorable.