Karen Hsu – Team Captain of Odyssey of the Mind

Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, CA

Each and every culture, heritage, and country deserves to be recognized in their own right as a defined existence and a precious part of history. Taiwan deserves this.

Who are you?

Adjectives that describe me: Quirky. I drink water from empty Prego tomato sauce jars, because it’s environmentally-friendly, it’s fun, and it works just fine. I am a Star Trekkie and an avid Lord of the Rings fan. I make killer brownies. Playing volleyball helps me meditate and de-stress. I also don’t mind speaking out for what I believe in. Creative. I enjoy expressing my thoughts in written words and in my music, finding unique approaches to tackling an obstacle, and designing outfits. Ambitious. My goals for life go something along the lines of creating a cure for arthritis, helping end the crisis in Darfur, writing a twi-potter-pirates novel, becoming the next Yo-Yo Hsu, swimming with dolphins, making the perfect peanut-butter-and-nutella sandwich, and learning to love every moment of my existence. Oh yes. World, be prepared.

Tell us about your organization / project, your role, and its impact?

At the beginning, my team was just a handful of mismatched puzzle pieces thrown together. We hadn’t “known” one another beforehand, and barely knew each other. Then hour after hour of slaving away in a dusty garage, sharing stale almond cookies, painting backdrops, hot-gluing (too often were fingers burnt in the process), brainstorming, singing Disney songs, and learning from each other brought us together.

As I began to put more and more time into Odyssey of the Mind, I became consumed by it, focused, always thinking of a new way to improve our skit or costumes, planning meetings, deciding what was and wasn’t necessary. Without my noticing, I found something that sparked my interest and motivated a level of commitment from me that nothing ever had before. Odyssey of the Mind, and my team, grew on me; I was no longer just Karen, but Karen, the mini-coach. I cared about my team. I was proud, protective, and thrilled to be part of it.

As we wove the strands of our solution, each of us also became inexplicably intertwined into the tapestry of our group. Shaving off a piece here, mending a corner there – it wasn’t just an act of working on the props, but also on the people. Placed together, the edges of the puzzle pieces – our personalities and habits – began to rub against each other, bending, adjusting, and changing to fit one another; until, united, we gleamed as one completed puzzle and as one team.

So, yes, last year we placed first in the Regional Tournament, we were State Champions, we ranked eighth in World Finals, but what I will remember the most is how we grew as a team, and how I learned to organize and, more importantly, to lead when no others stand forth to do so.

Where do you find your inspiration and motivation as a student leader?

Start. Procrastination is a common reaction to feeling overwhelmed or fear of failure. Instead of taking on too much at once and overwhelming yourself, break things down and take one small action step at a time. Understand yourself. You have to know who you are and what you want before you can lead anyone to victory. Things to do when you’re upset. Turn up music you really love. Play it so loudly that it soaks in through your skin. Dance in your pajamas. Feel the pain lift. Learn about genocides that are happening right now, all around the globe. Be aware. Get involved. Know how, truly, lucky you are. Play volleyball. Let the bruises on your arms and hands wash away the pain of the bruise on your heart. Because life is like an overhand serve. It can be scary as heck, but, eventually, you have to look it straight in the face, believe you can take anything that comes your way, and say, “bring it on.” Believe in yourself, and the tough part is already half over. Write. Express your thoughts. Rant. Muse. Create. Let your feelings, no matter if they are ugly or beautiful, flow out. Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger. Life, with all its ups and downs, is defined by the chances you take.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

Every culture has their own traditions – French people eat French foods, Native Americans sing Native American songs, and Indians wear their traditional Indian clothing. But culture is not limited to how you dress or what you eat or what holidays you celebrate; it also influences how you think and how you view the world and the people around you. The rules that you uphold, the ideals that you believe in – many are put in place simply because of what your culture supports. Where America tends to stress the importance of individuality and self-reliance, the Asian culture emphasizes honor in family and obedience. Where Americans believe in freedom of speech, we believe in the eloquence of silence. Where others believe in hosting elaborate dinner parties, we believe in sitting around a table with a few old friends, dining off of paper plates. Where others believe in doing their best, we believe in accomplishing more than our best. Where some may think it selfish to take more than five ketchup packets from the local Jack-in-the-Box, we see it as merely economical. You see the world through the eyes of your culture, and so your culture makes you who you are. Of course, there is no definite “right”, no distinctly “correct” culture or way of life, and no person who is able to determine which culture is more worthy than any other. This is solely because each and every culture, heritage, and country deserves to be recognized in their own right as a defined existence and a precious part of history. Taiwan deserves this. We Taiwanese are a separate people, no matter how small our numbers, and we ought to be documented as so. Just as how Americans would be outraged if they were recorded as British, we feel likewise – we are our own people, our own country, and we fought to be who we are today. There is no way that we will settle for just “Asian” when what we truly are, and will forever be, is “Taiwanese”.

Any additional information you would like to share?

Check out Odyssey of the Mind! http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/

2 Responses to “Karen Hsu – Team Captain of Odyssey of the Mind”

  1. You’re an amazing, beautiful girl, Karen. 🙂

    Much, much love~

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