Texas shield logo

Speaking the Language

Meet Emily Jin, a recent College of Liberal Arts graduate who found a deeper connection to their heritage while learning how to speak Chinese
Reporting by Abbie Bard

While growing up in a family of Chinese immigrants, Emily Jin wasn’t too eager to learn how to speak their parent’s native tongue. Yet their attitude quickly changed after taking an undergraduate course in Asian American Studies during the spring 2020 semester—a time marred by great uncertainty and widespread anti-Asian rhetoric.

“This course really aligned with my interests in the interdisciplinary parts of the field, and it addressed the issue of history repeating itself with the spike in Asian American hate rhetoric,” Jin says. “I switched my minor to a major and learned so much more about my own identity and my position within the community.”

Looking back at her childhood years in Texas, Jin laughs at the memory of their mother attempting to enroll them in a Chinese language class.

“When we walked in there, my mother told me that I said, ‘Don’t bother because you’re going to waste your money,’” Jin says. “So, she didn’t enroll me in those classes, which is funny because I minored in Chinese, which makes me feel closer to my Chinese identity and gives me more control over the language.”

Despite the challenges of juggling two majors, Jin says the benefits of learning how to speak Chinese far offsets the many long hours of studying.

“My minor makes me feel closer to my parents because I’m able to communicate with them in their native tongue,” Jin says. “Although Mandarin is my mother language, I didn’t speak it very much outside of the house, but now I’m able to use it in a classroom setting and hopefully one day in a professional setting. Honestly, that has connected me more to my heritage than I thought it would.”

Now a newly minted Texas Ex (B.A., English/Asian American Studies ’23), Jin will always fondly look back at the memories she made with various groups, centers and organizations including the Multicultural Engagement Center’s Cultural Exchange Program in Washington, DC, Silk Club and Always Texas. They will especially miss their home-away-from-home at the Center for Asian American Studies.

“My second home has been the Center for Asian American Studies,” Jin says. “It’s located in Bellmont, so it’s kind of a trek to get there, but I really enjoyed being in that space; it has a cute little library and it’s my favorite place to work and study.”

As for the future ahead, Jin is excited to see what’s next and—most of all—spending more time with family. Of all their favorite traditions—from the Lunar New Year to the Mid-Autumn Festival—they most enjoy sitting down with loved ones at the dinner table.

“One thing I love about my family is that we always try to have dinner together, and most of the time everyone is involved in making the dinner,” Jin says. “So, if we’re having dumplings, my grandma makes the dough, then people will get together to fold the dumplings, then the kids will put out the silverware and the plates. It’s very much a collective, communal experience.”