STUDENT. daughter. dreamer.
I’m currently a junior at Washington University in St. Louis studying Economics & Strategy and Finance with a minor in Dance. I have been a part of the Taiwanese American community for as long as I could remember. I originally grew up in the Bay Area and was heavily involved with the Taiwanese/Taiwanese American community there through performing traditional and contemporary Taiwanese dance with Fremont Taiwan School. I attribute my love for the Taiwanese American community to this experience as I had to proudly share my cultural identity onstage, sometimes in front of thousands. From there, I went on to lead my Taiwanese club at my high school, Irvington Junior Taiwanese American Student Association (JTASA), and brought the same energy and passion – performing Taiwanese dance – to more people through first-hand experiences. This was an incredible experience for me in understanding the power of the Taiwanese American community, even as measly 15/16-year olds.
Now I’m a Staff Contributor at TaiwaneseAmerican.org, and although I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up, I know that being involved in the Taiwanese American community is something I want to do for the rest of my life. Being Beyonce’s backup dancers would be nice too…
How does being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American and/or community ally play a role in your life?
To be honest, I’m still trying to understand what it means to be a part of the Taiwanese American community. On one hand, it means that you always know that there is “better food out there” aka Taiwanese night markets, but on the other, it means that you are constantly justifying your cultural identity. One thing for sure, particularly for me, is that the people I meet and projects I take on, for some reason, are always connected back to Taiwan.
Going to college in the Midwest, when I first shared that I was Taiwanese American, many people thought it meant that I was from Thailand. And with that, I would start sharing about the food and culture of Taiwan and pretty soon many of my friend’s dream vacation spot became Taiwan. Another example of “finding Taiwan” in the things that I do is a recent project I worked on with my friend Eugenia. We decided to write a children’s picture book during her gap year and ended up writing about a little girl who moves back to Taiwan and has to figure what is “home”. It is interesting because out of anything and everything that can be written about, we decided to pick Taiwan as a context in honor of our roots. (Side Note: This is Not My Home by me (Vivienne Chang) and Eugenia Yoh will be on shelves everywhere Spring 2023 published by Little, Brown Young Readers!)
This gravitation towards sharing Taiwanese culture is something I know that I will hold on to dearly despite the challenges to my cultural identity. After all, it’s in my blood!
If you could teach future generations 1 thing about being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American or Taiwan, what would it be?
You can do it! I hope that this wide list of passionate Taiwanese Americans shows that anything, truly, can be accomplished as long as you dream it 🙂 Being Taiwanese American is one part of your identity, as is an artist, entrepreneur, doctor, student, sister, etc. Don’t let titles and the associated stereotypes hold you back from chasing after what you know and what you hope to become!
As a general note, learn Mandarin, Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, whatever is considered your mother tongue. Not only is it a great way to show off to your friends but I truly believe that language is the best way to understand a culture.
What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?
The future of Taiwanese America is unapologetic. After conducting this project of showcasing 100 Taiwanese Americans/community members, I have learned so much about the Taiwanese American community and our ability to chase after our dreams whether as a newly elected mayor or aspirational Broadway star. We’re going to diversify our talents and stretch our influence in every industry and I can’t wait to see what’s next for our community!
Favorite memory of Taiwan/Taiwanese America?
I have so many! I think one of my favorites, which also brings intense nostalgia, is exiting the International Terminal of the Taoyuan International Airport. After a long walk to the exit, there is this mint green wall that leads directly to a row of onlookers, family members, taxi drivers, and so on. The desperate search to find my grandma is a very nostalgic feeling for me as an overwhelming sense of “home” washes over me when I finally spot her in the crowd.
Another of my favorite memory is eating 米粉湯 at 饒河夜市 in Taipei when my sister and I were younger. We were sitting on the stool drinking the soup out of a plastic bag covering the bowl so that the store owners could just throw away the bag rather than wash the bowl. All the while we were looking at the organs of a pig(?) cow(?) sitting in plain sight uncovered in the 100-degree Fahrenheit night. I love Taiwan!
Favorite Taiwanese food?