Marisa Lum

Marisa Lum

Class of 2012
Irene He Yuan Chinese-American Friendship Award

Last week, I visited the Mount Holyoke College Archives for the first time and was excited to find a file under Irene He Yuan’s name. After reading Irene’s personal narrative about her experiences in the Valley, I found the description of her Mount Holyoke community during the ‘80s similar to my own. Irene described those around her as open, friendly and adventurous. She was inspired by her peers’ cultural curiosity and believed that students could learn from each other and their different cultural backgrounds. 

My Mount Holyoke community has given me the opportunity to explore my cultural curiosity. The support, encouragement and guidance I received from the Asian Studies department faculty gave me the confidence to venture outside Mount Holyoke’s gates and to Beijing for my junior year. In Beijing, it was my Mount Holyoke community that rooted me in my unfamiliar surroundings—I lived with a Mount Holyoke alumna (hi Kait!), had countless meals with native Chinese MHC students and alumna, met up with admissions directors and helped out with prospective student interviews—through these conversations, I built assurance, a launching pad that catapulted me into Beijing’s university hub at Tsinghua University and the business district at Edelman’s Beijing office. In both the classroom and the office, I was able to broaden my understanding of Chinese culture and at the same time expand upon my peers’ understanding of American culture. We would discuss Chinese and American outlooks on marriage during a lesson on dating or compare ringtone preferences while conducting collaborative market research—we were participating in an active cultural exchange.

I am so honored to receive this award and am looking forward to continuing to help bridge the cultural gap between cultures. Shout out to the Chinese language department! You guys are the best!