Coming To Terms With Cultural Heritage
Rising senior Krystle Jiang is this year’s recipient of the Benigno and Corazon Aquino scholarship, which honors students who represent the highest ideals and aspirations of the University and the Asian American community. But there was a time not long ago when Jiang felt trapped, rather than empowered, by her Chinese heritage.
Growing up in a predominantly white, upper-middle class New Jersey suburb, Jiang often endured taunts — for eating dried seaweed as a snack, for example — and racial jokes aimed at her cultural background. So, as Jiang explains, “I quickly learned how to fit in. But unfortunately, my way of doing that was in sequestering my Chinese-ness to my house.”
This caused tension at home, as Jiang’s parents — Cultural Revolution-raised Chinese immigrants — wanted their daughter to embrace her culture. Jiang just wanted to get along with other kids.
Then she found comfort through befriending other Asian Americans who faced similar struggles, and after reading a series of books about racial identity development before her freshman year at Boston College, Jiang felt ready for what she describes as a “very intense and exciting journey of self-discovery” at the Heights.
Today, Jiang makes a point of boldly representing her passions, values, and unique perspective as an Asian American. She has not only embraced her culture, but has pushed forward to learn as much as possible.
Jiang is a representative of the Chinese Students Association and serves on the executive board of the “Backgrounds of Boston College” Committee, which is developing a seminar to help freshmen become more open to diversity. She has taught classes on ethnic identity to Boston-area high school students through the “Splash” program. Her other formative experiences have ranged from undertaking an internship in Honduras to participating in an Ultimate Frisbee team.
Jiang says she was humbled and surprised at being named the Aquino Scholarship winner. She did not work deliberately to achieve the honor, she explains — instead, the honor found her, and is recognition for doing everything that she loved and found interesting in the first place.
“I was just overcome with a sense of gratitude and love for BC for not only helping me realize and develop my passions — and having the avenues to do so — but also recognizing my unconventional path,” she says. “I’ve never felt such appreciation before, and it feels fantastic.”
In her final year on campus, Jiang will work on helping launch “Backgrounds of Boston College.” She also plans to continue serving on the Chinese Students Association, and confidently engage students in the world and empower them to share their passions. She may not yet have an inkling as to what lies beyond graduation next spring, but Jiang promises to work towards her vision of an open and accepting society.
“As an Asian American with the blessing of multiculturalism and the responsibility of sharing the diversity, I engage the world every day, proud of my identity as a Chinese American woman, yet humbled by the greatness of people and ready to live my life in service to others.”