Spring Reflections

By YLan Nguyen, MD Programs Intern
Photos Courtesy of YLan Nguyen, MD Programs Intern

Hi everyone, my name is YLan Nguyen and I am AALEAD’s MD Programs Intern for the spring 2016 semester. Currently, I am a senior at the University of Maryland studying psychology and Asian American Studies. For the duration of my internship, I’ll be at Wheaton High School’s and Julius West Middle School’s after school programs. I’ve been at AALEAD since mid-February and I’ve learned so much already!

I grew up in Germantown, Maryland, among a diverse student population. However, diversity does not always mean inclusivity. I had many questions growing about my identity as an Asian American, specifically Vietnamese American, woman that public education could not answer. It was not until I started reading social justice blogs and took Asian American studies courses in college where I felt my identity developing. I’ve had the experience of facilitating identity development workshops for college students and younger on multiple occasions and I’ve truly enjoyed seeing participants (and myself) grow and learn from different experiences.

AALEAD Identity Workshop

My experiences so far supporting programs at Albert Einstein High School, Wheaton High School, and Julius West Middle School have been wonderful. It’s exciting how AALEAD staff bring something new and engaging to programs every day. At Julius West, we’ve done a couple of food-related lessons, one in particular about a popular drink, bubble tea. Did you know that bubble tea actually originated in Taiwan? Many of the AALEAD youth were surprised! The youth discussed how bubble tea has been interpreted by different Asian American communities while sipping on their own homemade green milk tea and black milk tea. I thought this was a fun way to explore how cultural aspects, specifically food, can vary from one community to another. The youth discussed interpretations of bubble tea across various Asian ethnicities by drawing from their own experiences. For example, the food and drinks at Tea Do in Rockville, MD are heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine while at Jumbo Jumbo in Rockville, MD, there is a heavy influence of Taiwanese cuisine. The lesson showed that culture is dynamic and always changing and that communities share similar elements.

AALEAD Bubble Tea Workshop

Through my internship at AALEAD, I hope to empower Asian Pacific American youth with knowledge and tools of identity development that will hopefully help explain their own experiences. I believe that education, specifically learning about our histories and identities, builds community. All the youth I have met have incredible energy and hunger to learn more. I can tell that I will be learning a lot from the students. I believe that consciousness of identity, privilege, power, and education is crucial for navigating through society, forming successful relationships and self-advocating in various spaces. I look forward to what’s to come in the next couple of months and connecting with AALEAD youth!

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