We’re celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, groups of people who have faced adversity and remained resilient over the years. Everyone has a unique background where their story begins.
"My parents are immigrants from China," said University at Buffalo junior Jackie Zhou.
"I grew up in Brooklyn, New York City, which is basically the Chinatown of Brooklyn," added UB senior Terrence Li.
And how that impacts their journey through life.
"My mom is from Laos, which is in Southeast Asia. It's next to Taiwan. And my dad is from Vietnam," said UB junior Kitana Uetz.
For these three members of the Asian American Student Union, it meant the world for them to find each other.
"It is really hard to create senses of community, especially amongst the student body," Zhou added.
"They're looking for community," Li said. "We're working with them and accepting who they are."
It didn't come without challenges.
"People are okay with like making micro-aggressive remarks towards me or just racist comments that they think it's funny," said Zhou.
Troubling experiences they’d have to endure both on and off campus.
"Very often I would go downtown, so I had my camera with me, and this was COVID, I had my mask on and I was Chinese," said Li. "Every so often I'd walk down the street and as someone passed by and said something like, ‘Oh, you know, go back to where you came from or something like that.’ "
But sometimes the struggle is more subtle.
"I've always felt really disconnected from my culture. I grew up [near] Rochester in a town called Webster. And so it's very small," said Uetz. "Why I was the only Asian girl in my grade? Growing up in such a whitewashed area and not being able to speak was a very hard thing to do."
But through their community here, they're making things better for anyone with a unique background.
"My goal is to promote that even further, just to like, bring upon more awareness, bring up more opportunities to educate and to give voices to people who aren't in my position right now," said Zhou.
That includes the thousands of students who will come through New York's campuses, away from home and looking for community. Maybe a student union with similar backgrounds can help.
"I feel like it really gives you like a different point of view and lets you meet a lot of new people and some really great people that I've met have been through those days," said Uetz.
"Even though it is Asian American Pacific Islander most important highlight all different types of communities," said Li. "We're all pretty much the same. We're all human beings."