How AAPI Students Are Finding Solace and Connection During a Difficult Year

May 31, 2021

As Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month comes to an end, we caught up with AAPI-identifying Wellesley students to hear how they have found solace and connection during such a challenging year.

Raine Higa ’23
Karen Shih, assistant dean of intercultural education and advisor to students of Asian descent, made a community space where, for the first time, there was a place for AAPI sibs to talk about anti-AAPI racism and misogyny, microaggressions, and trauma, and I still keep in touch with sibs from there. When Helen Wang, director of residential life, heard what a difficult time I was going through, she shared home-cooked meals with me. Although it was a contactless exchange, the simple sight of a warm meal in a ceramic bowl filled me with so much joy, closeness, and connectedness, in contrast to the disposable containers that I’ve grown accustomed to this year.

Raine Higa ’23 before and after a haircut from director of residential life Helen Wang.
Raine Higa ’23 before and after a haircut from director of residential life Helen Wang.

Tulay Akoglu ’21
Having studied remotely all year, I definitely felt disconnected from many of my usual sources of comfort. There were simple things that brought me joy during my time at Wellesley—the raspberry bow ties in Tower dining hall being one example. Instead, I have been spending my last year of college at home with my parents in New York. It has been tough at times, being unable to see my friends and having to adjust my schedule to fit theirs. Nonetheless, I have discovered the small things that bring me joy while living at home. Collecting stinging nettles from the park to make tea has been one. Having access to my mother’s delicious Japanese cooking has been another. This time has allowed me to reflect on the value of family and what it means to find comfort in the little things.

Isha Gupta ’21
At Wellesley, I’m so lucky to have many other Asian sibs with whom I can have thoughtful, frank, and joyful conversations about the nuances of our hyphenated identities. Through being in organizations like the Wellesley Association for South Asian Cultures (WASAC) or spending time with the other Asian seniors on my floor in Freeman Hall, I’ve been able to find solidarity and solace amid a time of intense difficulty for our communities in this country.

Isha blockmate Katherine Chan ’21 wearing commencement robes
Gupta (right) and blockmate Katherine Chan ’21 wearing commencement regalia on the first day of their last term at Wellesley. She is one of the many Asian/Asian-American seniors I’ve leaned on during this semester, in light of renewed violence against people of Asian descent in the past few months.

Jenn Duan ’21
I’m incredibly grateful to have a community at Wellesley that I can turn to. With my co-chair of Pan-Asian Council, I was able to draft a statement reaching out to the Wellesley pan-Asian community about the uprising in AAPI hate crimes and how to help local Asian American organizations. While studying remotely, I also found comfort in making digital art around my Chinese American identity and sharing my art in a community of AAPI artists. Being able to open up to my friends about the racial injustices surrounding our community has been a great outlet as well.

Jenn Duan ’21 holds a digital portrait she created. The piece is meant to symbolize a mix of emotions, ranging from emotional tu
Duan holds a digital portrait she created, meant to symbolize a mix of emotions, ranging from emotional turmoil to the calm after a storm. Duan says it was very cathartic to create, especially during a tumultuous time in the AAPI community.

Linda Taing ’22
In this “Wellesley bubble,” I don’t feel threatened in any way. I recognize that to be able to feel this sense of safety is a privilege. However, my home state of Washington has seen a slew of anti-Asian hate crimes. I have been keeping in touch with my mom, who reassures me that she and the rest of our family are staying safe. We speak in Teochew Chinese. I have not been home since I left for the fall semester, so I’ve just come to realize how much Teochew connects me to my family and heritage.