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Journal #0 - It Starts With Pride

collage of a student, and some of their interests

Photo Credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

Howdy folx! 

My name is Chris, I also go by Pixel, with no preference. I am a rising junior studying Engineering and Environmental Studies, where my focus wanders from renewable energy to community mobilization to multi-media storytelling. This summer, I’ll be participating in Vietnam: Virtual Internship in Development and Gender through the School of International Training. This six-week program encompasses an internship with a grassroots organization in Vietnam and participation in a seminar held on Thursdays (at 10 PM EST! That’s 9 AM ICT) about Vietnamese current events and issues, especially in terms of development and gender. The worksite I was matched with was was the ICS Center of Vietnam, a community-led LGBTI+ organization. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing with you my experiences through this series of blog posts! This is Journal #0, just to kick things off by telling you a bit about me and how I came about this program.

collage of student and things the student enjoys

A little collage of my interests, from art to low-tech computing 

Photo credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

This internship has been made possible for me as a low-income student thanks to funding through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program. I had deferred my previous study abroad plans due to COVID-19. I was also honored with the 2020 Lang Center Social Impact Summer Scholarship for work with an Asian American Non-Profit organization, so instead, I spent last summer as the Program Assistant for the Real Internships for Community Engagement high school summer program led by VietLead—a Southeast Asian grassroots organization in Philadelphia. In the program, we introduced the students to topics such as mutual aid, undocumented immigrant rights, and Census disaggregation. 

Image of the shirt I designed for the Summer RICE program

Photo credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

As a Burmese Chinese person, I’ve found it has been much more difficult to learn about my Burmese identity than my Chinese identity due to the inaccessibility of information. Southeast Asian representation in Asian activist spaces can be hard to come by. I’ve had the folx from the 2019/2020 Tri-College Asian Student Conferences, Organizing to Redefine “Asian” Activism, and the East Coast Asian American Student Union to thank for nurturing my growth in (un)learning as a prospective student and freshman looking for a sense of belonging after living in a place where there were no others like me. I look forward to continuing to grow from this internship through working with my mentor in Vietnam while exploring the potentials for language and storytelling in new ways.

I believe that listening to the voices of community members is extremely important when it comes to ethical engineering development and design. One product can end up drastically changing an economy, the environment, and how the members of society interact with each other, such as on the basis of gender. It is important that we listen to community members about what they want for their community. These conversations are often neglected in the engineering field so I hope to be a part of the movement to redress that. 

In addition to this program, I’ll also be studying for my LEED GA exam and continuing my part-time work with an LGBTQ+ senior center in NYC. LEED is one of the many sustainable building standards used by architects and engineers; I was introduced to it as a President’s Sustainability Research Fellow, where my project was focused on Energy Efficiency Strategy which sparked my interest in the sustainability of energy systems. 

There are now other sustainability standards that the College uses but I decided to start with a more common one as I get familiar with the field of sustainable energy efficiency through the utilization of renewables. My work with the LGBTQ+ senior center involves assisting our members with technological support and other important resources. The same folx who fought for LGBTQ+ rights are often neglected and people often forget who our elders are, so this work is an important service for me to be a part of. I imagine a future where we can exist with our identities freely and fluidly through intergenerational care while respecting the Earth.

In my next post, I’ll let you know a bit more about what I’m up to in my internship. Until then, I leave you with these words:

Another World is Necessary
Another World is Possible
Another World is Happening

— Grace Lee Boggs