Maya Salo is a Chinese American adoptee who graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle, in winter 2021 with a double degree in biology and psychology.
Where are you from?
Home to me is my family in my childhood home. It is where I feel most comfortable, relaxed, and myself. I appreciate the familiarity and the knowledge that I am accepted.
One thing that reminds me of my Chinese heritage is Dim Sum. Throughout my life, my family will go to Dim Sum in the Seattle International District. Often it was an event related to celebration and showing me my culture. Love everything about Dim Sum. I love the tasty food, the bustling atmosphere, and that is a place for a traditional weekly family get together.
A metaphor for myself would be that I am like a brown bear. I like to take things slow and steady. I don’t like feeling the pressure to act or do things in a way that I am not prepared for. Also like a bear I love the summer months and would rather hibernate and hide from the winter cold. I have also learned that I have thick skin and I can endure when things get tough. But most of the time I like to think positively and let the little things go.
My comfort food is a bagel and cream cheese. I love the smell, the slight crackle, and the creamy texture of the cream cheese. My mom would rarely buy bagels, but when I feel down bagels always make me feel better. Unconsciously, I do not crave them and I make the healthy choice not to buy them. However, when they are in reach or if someone else gets them I cannot resist. I think the comfort comes from you can always trust that it will taste good and that you can get one no matter where you are.
Why did you go to college?
Traveling gets me excited and sparks joy within me. I want to experience what the world has to offer and I want to see as much of the world as I can in this life. Traveling represents to me the ability to be self-sufficient, capable, independent, and strength. It requires me to be flexible and open to new ideas, people, situations, and experiences. College is also an adventure and a place for new discovery. I very much enjoy both of my majors, however I know that before I settle down I want to see more of the world first.
Why did you choose your major?
I want to tell my future self that I should do the things that bring me joy. Life is short and there are many challenges. But if I find happiness in new experiences and discoveries, if I commit myself to going with the flow, most of the time it works out and I think my life will be fuller because of it.
Veronica Anne: How did it feel to think about these questions and your answers to them? How did it feel to actually write down your answers?
Maya: Well, I really like them. I like how it felt like—it was short and sweet. Where—’cause I didn’t have [to] spend so much time on thinking about getting things written correctly or said correctly. It was more of a streamline of thoughts related to the question. And I think it’s . . . I personally enjoy anything that’s self-reflective, but I felt like this was really a nice self-reflection, that’s both short as well as intentional and purposeful.
Interestingly, I found the first question the hardest. ‘Cause I think of—or, it was hard to think of, like, what I consider “comfort food.” What I would always turn to. But I ended up deciding [laughs] for me, it was a bagel and cream cheese. I think it has to do with—it always tastes amazing when you toast it. My mom never got it in the house when I was a kid because neither a bagel nor cream cheese is, like, something you really should have around the house. So, like, it was always a treat.
But it took me a while to come up to that answer, because I was like, “What would make me feel comfort?” Because I can think of a lot of foods that I crave and, like, that are my guilty pleasures, but comfort specifically—it’s really . . . I like that. I like the difficulty of the question and the simplicity of it.
Um, as far as the other ones, I felt like those answers came a little bit quicker because I had already thought about those to myself. Just throughout my life. As far as what, um—what my response, or what I felt like my best responses were.
I also thought it was interesting that, in the spaces between each of the prompts where you write one of the three questions down—that itself was interesting because I feel like a lot of my questions relate to where I am from, more so compared to “Why did I choose my major?” or “Why did I come to college?”
I think it’s interesting because I’ve been taking a lot of psychology classes and I learned that a lot of our personal identity is related to our memories and what we call our schemas, which are basically these inter-webs of things that tell you who you are, how the world should work.
So, I think it’s interesting that it reflects in my questions—or how I feel these answers best fit these questions. A lot of them have to do with where I am from. I think the only two I decided—or maybe I did three—but the only two I for sure changed was [because] I felt like the one about what makes me excited is why I decided to come to college.
For me, right now what makes me excited is to travel. Um, but I know in order to travel I need to have a steady job and career. But it has to be a balance because I have to have the time to be able to travel but I also have to have money to be able to travel. And so, I feel like that is a motivator for me in college and why I’m in it, because I want to have a nice quality of life afterward.
And then the one other question I decided that was different than where I’m from was, “Why did I choose my major?” I felt like that one—actually, my answer for what I want to tell my future self is why I chose my major. Because at least my future self—I want to remind myself that it’s okay to take risks. It’s okay to be spontaneous and oftentimes, if not most of the time, things work out in a good way. Because I both acknowledge it about myself and actively work to try to change it as I get stuck on my patterns or . . . how I do things. And it’s not bad or anything, it’s just—I want to be more of a risk taker, and spontaneous, and I feel like in college, there’s a lot of opportunities for that, so it’s really a great time, to be rewarding. But I think I can picture myself, once I get a job and certainly 10 years down the line, doing the same thing every day, I’ll definitely be set in patterns. And so, I want to remind myself to do different things, and I think it relates to why I chose my majors. Simply because the way I decided on my majors was what interested me in the moment, regardless of, like, what would happen afterwards—like, as far as grad school or what other prereqs [prerequisites] I’d need to take if I want to go into a healthcare field.
But what interested me as well—initially I was only going to major in biology, but I was like, “I’m really enjoying the psychology classes.” So, I figured out how to shove two majors into four years of school, which is doable, but it also can be challenging. And so that—I feel like that was, like, a risk that I took, because basically you’re making this plan where you’re hoping the classes will not overlap in time so you can schedule the classes at the right time. And I’m really glad I did. It definitely was rewarding, and it’s worked out but it’s . . . There’s a couple moments where I was like, “Oh, God! I’m going to be here forever.”
But yeah, I really like these questions. And I think . . . as far as what I felt from them is, I just felt very self-reflective, and I like that.
Veronica Anne: Thank you. If you’re comfortable, please share what you’ve written, whether that’s reading verbatim or generally talking about what you’ve written down. You’ve already touched upon it in your reflection piece, but if you wanted to go more into detail about some of your answers, you can here.
Maya: I think the only one that I didn’t really cover—well, the two that I didn’t really cover, one of them was . . . I think the prompt was to describe a memory, event, or image that exemplifies [being] Chinese American to me. For me it was definitely dim sum. One of the experiences that my parents gave me growing up is the experience of going out to eat for dim sum on the weekend, which is a traditional thing that a lot of Chinese people do. Even though we live in Olympia, and back when there was no traffic, we would drive up to Seattle occasionally and go partake in dim sum. And it was just really fun to see all the local people in the International District in Seattle out, eating. And it was interesting because it just was, like, the food is great. It’s one of my favorite foods out there. But it’s also . . . For me it’s just, like, the most Chinese thing I do consistently in America. [Laughs] I guess it’s probably the best way of explaining that. And then the other thing, it just makes you feel a part of a culture or an event. And at least for me that was important, which is why I associate that so strongly with being Chinese American.
It’s also really interesting being in college because none of my friends ever experienced it. And so, it’s just interesting because it was just such a matter-of-fact part of my life . . . that I could talk to—or there’s a couple people I know who knew what it was, but a couple of my friends did not know what it was before. Or, like, the significance of it . . . and so that was cool, getting to tell them about it. But also, it was definitely—very much a different cultural experience, even though we’re both in Washington in the United States of America.
And then the other prompt that I answered that I haven’t really covered was a metaphor for myself. Recently I feel—it changes every so often, but recently, my metaphor for myself has been that I am like a . . . probably a brown bear, but some kind of bear. I like to take things slow and steady, go at my own pace. I don’t really feel like I am a prey animal, so I don’t have any of those, like, “gotta dash off somewhere.” Um, but also, I do like to be social, which, I mean, bears are somewhat social, right? I don’t know.
But I just think the steady pace that, like, when you watch a bear or any video of a bear, the steady pace of how bears are as a metaphor for how I am, as well as sometimes . . . they can be more mischievous, because they will get into trash cans and things like that. Not saying I would want to get in trash cans, [laughs] but I feel like I have moments where, like, my more . . . getting-into-things-maybe-I-shouldn’t come out. But most of the time, life was really straightforward. You know, it’s all about enjoying the sun, finding food, and hiding in the winter.