AAPI Conversations: Jie Yuan

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked AAPI staff members to talk about tradition, identity, and their work at Creative Minds.

Jie Yuan
Mandarin Teacher: Middle School
Two Years at Creative Minds

What does being Asian or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being Asian in the workplace can be lonely, due to the small number of Asian employees at Creative Minds. In an attempt to blend in with this exotic group (in my view, it’s exotic), I subconsciously suppressed my ethnic identity at times. I was taken aback when I realized I was assimilating myself into my surroundings, since I had completely ignored all essences of my culture. Being Asian and living in the United States are equally important to me. I don’t have to choose between the two, because they both help to shape who I am now.

What is your favorite cultural tradition?

I am from mainland China, and my favorite time of year as a child was always the Lunar New Year, which we call the “Spring Festival” because it symbolizes the beginning of spring. Lunar New Year brings together all of my family members for a reunion. My grandparents always made so much excellent food all at once on this day that I wished I had two stomachs to hold it all. Giving each other auspicious wishes is a big component of the ritual because, as the spring season brings in great energy, those wishes can strengthen the vibe of our being positive.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

After receiving my bachelor’s degree in China, I pursued my master’s degree at George Washington University, where I realized my life’s purpose: to bring the world together through teaching languages and exchanging cultures. I knew I was making an impact when I saw my students enthusiastically teaching their classmates, friends, and families different ways to greet each other in Chinese. At that moment, I knew I was one step closer to my ultimate goal: to eradicate stereotypes, prejudice, and hatred between nations, and to spread understanding, positivity, and harmony across continents.

Beyond your Asian or Pacific Islander heritage, what other identities do you hold dear?

  • Rock climber
  • Relentless Spanish learner
  • Public-speaking enthusiast
  • Big fan of mental-health awareness
  • Potential gourmet