Embrace Who You Are

Jul 11, 2022

Hmong student and Resident Advisor seeks a career helping people.

It was the first day of welcome week at UMD. Christina Yang unloaded her belongings from the vehicle into the large red carts. Along with her family, she rolled a full cart into Burntside Hall, searching for her section and room number. “I saw a sign on a door with my name on it,” Yang says. “It made me feel so welcomed.” 

Yang later found out that it was the resident assistants (RAs) who created the door decorations and made the signage in the residential hallways. RAs were able to display their creativity to welcome incoming students.

Getting Involved

When Yang entered her junior year, she remembered all the ways RAs help students. They help by creating a welcoming environment and ease the transition for students moving away from home. RAs also help manage conflicts and maintain a safe environment.

Yang realized that she could apply to be an RA. She likes creating activities and she felt she could really contribute. “I love arts and crafts and I love working with students. I want to continue doing that in school and afterward,” Yang says. 

Becoming an RA opened up Yang’s perspective about college and residence life. She created new relationships and connections with other RAs, as well as the staff. “This isn’t just a job, but it’s something I like to do,” Yang says. “I love to find balance and fit all the activities into my schedule.” As Yang goes into her senior year, she will return as an RA for a second year. 

Growing at UMD

Yang is majoring in psychology with a minor in deaf studies. At first, Yang was a biology major, but later changed it because she knew she wanted to work more with people and still be in the medical field. “I chose psychology,” she says. “I want to help people and work with kids.”

Two of Yang’s experiences helped shape her career path. During elementary school a friend introduced Yang to her deaf parents. That was a new world. 

Yang is also bilingual, speaking Hmong and English languages.  She wants to dive into interpreting and help those who have a language barrier. Yang is taking many American Sign Language (ASL) courses. “I have so much fun learning other languages, it opens up my eyes to a whole other world,” she says.

Yang’s journey in learning ASL has been greatly impacted by Sunny Brysch, an instructor and the Deaf Studies Program coordinator. “She is an inspiration to me and the memories of her will always remain with me. She's straightforward and honest. She always makes her intentions clear and her stories are super interesting,” Yang says.

Proud of Her Heritage

Being Hmong, Yang is passionate about her culture and background. She loves the culture, the clothing, the food, and especially the language. “Everyone is their own special person. We all come from so many different backgrounds, it makes us who we are,” she says. “Learning about other cultures, understanding people of color, and being respectful towards the diversity around us is really important to me.”

Yang acknowledges that the Hmong people are not widely known. They are an ethnic minority group who mainly came from the areas of Southwest China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the U.S. recruited Hmong people.

As the war progressed, many lives were lost. The U.S began to pull their troops out, leaving the Hmong behind forcing them to flee to Thailand becoming refugees. After the war, the U.S. recognized the sacrifice Hmong people had made and helped bring many refugees to areas of the U.S. including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California.

Dreams are in the works

Graduation is nearing and Yang looks forward to putting her skills to use. She wants to find a job interpreting or working with children. She eventually wants to go to graduate school. While taking things one step at a time, she wants to travel and gain more experience working with people.

Yang carries this motto with her, “Count your blessings because life is always giving you opportunities. You don’t realize how lucky you are,” she says.

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About the UMD Psychology Program

Banner photo (above) and inset photo: Christina Yang

This story was written by UMD student Eva Moua, who is majoring in communication. Eva works with Cheryl Reitan in University Marketing and Public Relations.

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