August 11, 2017

From left to right: Arjan Grover, University of Virginia '18; Richard Ng, high school student; Samantha Ng, Binghamton University '19; Christine Lee, Duke University '18; Julie Wu, Ohio State University '18.

Favorite moments, pastimes of our interns

We thank our class of 2017 summer interns for playing a crucial role at APIAVote! Whether they choose a career path in public service, community organizing, or academia, we applaud this group of driven students for breaking new ground with us and uplifting Asian American and Pacific Islander voices. 

With APIAVote staff members’ mentorship, the interns learned how to mobilize AAPI voters through policy, communications and field operations these past few months. They also provided program support for our Congressional Reception and Secretary Mineta Fireside Chat.

Our interns reflected on their time in Washington, D.C., with APIAVote’s Communications and Policy Associate Karin Chan before they have to go back to school. Intern Brandon Agraviador, student at the University of Florida ‘19, could not participate in the interview.

Where is home for you? How did that shape your upbringing?

Arjan: Growing up in Vienna, Virginia, it was definitely more diverse than other parts of America, especially because of its proximity to the DC metropolitan area. Because of that I had an easier time growing up than some of my fellow Sikh peers.

Samantha: Growing up in New York City, I spent a lot of my time in Chinatown being surrounded by the Chinese and Chinese American community. It really was such an amazing experience because I grew up with real world experience of seeing how lower income families and immigrant communities survive daily life.

Julie: I was born in Illinois but I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. My school was 97 percent white and 3 percent everyone else so I didn't have a lot of diversity growing up. Going to college at the Ohio State University was pretty eye opening for me. Even though it was my last choice, I went there anyway because it was affordable and I found an Asian community where I belonged.

Christine: I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I very much consider myself a Southerner. A lot of the areas in the South don't tend to have ethnic enclaves or Chinatowns, which started because of a desire for survival and community. My area has a long history of Chinese Americans settling in the Mississippi-Memphis area since the mid-1800s.

Richard: I grew up in Howard County, Maryland. So I am very privileged. Howard County is the third most funded county in the U.S. There's not a lot of diversity there. I'd like to bring more resources to people who aren't as privileged as I am and help them in whatever way I can.

Intern Julie Wu introduces U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal at APIAVote's Congressional Reception on June 22 at the Russell Senate Building. 

What are some favorite moments during your internship in D.C. so far?

Arjan: Being able to help host APIAVote’s Congressional Reception and interact with some of the members of Congress and Senate that came out to support the event. It showed me that our work has a direct impact on the lives of people.

Samantha: An ongoing favorite experience of mine is helping [Programs Associate] Kathryn Quintin with the APIAVote student ambassador program. I've had the opportunity to talk to a lot of college students across the country about how they want to improve their own campuses, which has been really uplifting for me.

Julie: I like how APIAVote staff threw all the interns in a room because we just got really close. If we were in cubicles, I don't think it would have been as fun. I've gotten a chance to be more involved with the media side of things like creating a video, flyers and templates, to be part of that conversation on how media is created.

Christine: I enjoy being challenged this summer by [Executive Director] Christine Chen, who gave me work outside of my comfort zone. She and Kathryn always challenge me to do things that I wouldn't automatically volunteer for, like public speaking and going to a Senate briefing. And so it's been really awesome that they believed in me and put me in those spaces.

Richard: I attended the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans “brown bag lunch” series where I got to learn so much from people with different perspectives since they come from all around the country.

APIAVote interns welcome the Honorable Norman Mineta at APIAVote's Fireside Chat on July 31 with a brief introduction on his storied life.

Why is it important to amplify AAPI voices?

Julie: A lot of times people say, 'oh it's part of our culture to not be like political, to kind of stay silent,' but we should change that. In order to survive and thrive in this country we need to have our voices thrown into the mix as well.

Christine: I've realized a lot this past year and this summer that being able to articulate and speak on your experiences is very much a privilege. I've been able to relate to a lot of Asian-American women in terms of theology and geography. For the first time I could articulate my experiences with their words. By amplifying different AAPI voices, more people will realize that their experiences are worth being articulated.

Arjan: I think it's really important to amplify AAPI voices because more people are becoming targets of hate crimes based on their identity or gender. If we don't get our voice out there now, the policy that is going to structure the future will not involve our voices. So if we want to make sure that our future generations are secure in this country, we have to let our voices be heard now.

Richard: I was exposed to this idea that voting is a right, but I'm starting to see that it is more a privilege and not that many Asians can actually get to those privileges. Going through these different experiences and activities, I learned more about how AAPIs really need to vote because that is our power in this democratic system.

Samantha: It’s important to put our names on those ballots and vote for people who will represent our voices. We also have to find ways to organize or be on the ground to advocate for ourselves if we can’t do that through the ballot. Working at APIAVote teaches me how to do the first step.

Intern Samantha Ng participates in a networking activity at the Congressional Reception. Over 350 people filled the Kennedy Caucus Room on June 22.

What do you like to do on your free time?

Arjan: I love cooking. I’ve taken six years of culinary arts training. I go to the kitchen to relieve stress.

Samantha: I like to spend my time outdoors on my campus and hanging out with my friends. I think it's really important for us to spend our free time outside of classes and our activities to practice self care in whatever ways we can.

Julie: I like to draw, animate, create. Lately, just photography. That’s what I like to say I do. In reality, I'm a huge extrovert. I hear there's a party going on, then I'm out the door. I stay up late to fulfill my FOMO and also do the things I like.

Christine: At school, I do a lot of baking and cooking. I exercise. I do introvert-type things like reading and journaling. In D.C., I've been going to more events than I would usually do as an introvert. That sense of FOMO has propelled me to meet more people.

Richard: I like to talk to people. Like Julie and Christine, if there's some kind of activity with people, I'm there. I really enjoy walking, running, or sleeping. Running gives me time to think.

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity. FOMO is an acronym that means “fear of missing out.”