I met Jiajia Wu in a near cosmopolitan fashion — surrounded by her Japanese friends working on an Asian-American Studies course, listening to her Korean music and drinking her brewed tea.
From my personal friendship with Jiajia (pronounced Ya-Ya), I can confidently say she has a heart the size of the moon. She is incredibly benevolent and amazingly articulate. She is fluent in three languages: Czech, English and Chinese and is also familiar with Korean, French and German.
“Growing up, I kind of embodied the international student identity in myself,” she says.
Jiajia was born and raised in Prague by Chinese parents. Jiajia’s diverse identity has helped her appreciate and understand other cultures.
Syracuse was Jiajia’s first encounter with the United States.
“I am aware Syracuse is not representative of the whole United States,” she says. “After growing up in a capital city in a metropolis, I thought I came to a village here in Syracuse. Life is just the university campus and outside the university campus, it’s a dead city.”
When it comes to introducing herself to others, Jiajia dislikes defining her identity.
“It’s hard for me to answer this. For the people I know, this is where I was born, this is where I grew up,” she says. “For me, this question is about finding myself. It’s a life long journey for me and I am not sure how to define it right now. I am in the process of searching. For now, my answer is just that I was born in the Czech Republic and my parents are born in China.”
A senior political science major, Jiajia is specifically interested in political philosophy. She believes that we as global citizens all have duties and responsibilities and need to offer contributions in order to ask for our rights from the government to enjoy our citizenship. Besides politics, she enjoys dancing, travelling and indulging in new cuisines. She is a dancer in the Orange Pulse Dance Troupe, and is practicing regularly for her showcase in April.
Despite her struggle with culture and identity, she definitely cherishes living in the present. “Being of Chinese ethnicities is a far-reaching element in my life which I cannot ignore or disregard,” she says. “So I feel that’s a part of how my parents raised me. They taught me the values that they thought were important for me to have from how they were raised, which helped in the way I was brought up.”
Rather than being tied to a specific cultural structure, however, Jiajia says a multicultural background has shaped her global mindset, and made her open to mingle and assimilate in different cultures — from her Prague’s childhood to her European adolescence to her American education.
“I am happy that I chose to come to the United States and learn,” she says. “It’s an experience that I will always cherish for the rest of my life.”
Deema Alsalih is a senior studying biology with minors in public health and economics at Syracuse University.