The college student's essay, which helped her get into the University of California, was emotionally relatable to many Asian Americans.
The college admission essay of an Asian American student about her parents and upbringing has struck a chord with other Asian American social media users. Jubeen Ashley (@jubeenashley) is a 19-year-old Korean American college student who shared an emotional essay that helped her gain admission to the University of California, Berkeley, on May 17. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, for her first two years of college.
Jubeen's video accurately captures what it's like to grow up in an Asian American household, as well as the internalized, deep-seated belief that who you are isn't enough. Lack of affection, as described in the essay, is especially common in the children of Asian immigrants. While there is no one-size-fits-all explanation, the inability of parents to show affection could be attributed to their own trauma. Prioritizing academic achievement over affection is a common parenting style known as "tiger parenting." The video on TikTok procured more than 500 thousand views and played some of the student's favorite moments from college in the background.
"My parents' lack of affection and my failures to meet their high expectations led to constant disappointment, convincing me that they despised me for everything I am," Jubeen says in the video. "My crippling anxiety under the burden to excel induced aggressive panic attacks at school, disabling me from properly focusing in class. My academics became a way of desperation for my parents’ approval through good grades in hopes of reviving my faith in myself as a lovable daughter."
Jubeen goes on to say that attending college allowed her to freely and wholeheartedly pursue her interests. Jubeen admits to feeling emotionally distant from her family now that she is living on her own for the first time. She credits her access to education with allowing her to better understand and empathize with her parents' perspectives. Their gradual aging began to make her understand things about their parenting that she previously didn't.
"Although I had a new outlook on my education, the awkward distance I felt from my family made me unsure of how to give and receive affection. Strangely enough, a few general introductory courses I took in school helped me to feel closer to them. Psychology served as a window into my father’s harshness, stemming from his own difficult childhood full of traditional Korean values and the accompanying weight of expectations," she says. "Linguistics allowed me to understand my mother's empathetic nature and love for people, as she loved studying language herself and connecting with others. The man who had once scolded me for my poor test grades didn't seem so strong with his wrinkles and sagging skin. The woman who used to nitpick every part of my appearance began ending our calls with 'I love you, my beautiful daughter.' Only once I had detached myself from the identity of an inadequate daughter, I realized how human my parents are. How had I convinced myself my childhood was full of hatred? I was always surrounded by love, even when it lacked opacity."
TikTok users who identify as Asian American thought the essay resonated well with them. "This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I feel less alone in sharing this experience," commented @Asima. "Beautiful. Relatable. The story of many Asian Americans youth," wrote @C. The pressure to succeed is especially prevalent among Asian American youths because of the built-in, historically embedded expectations derived from terms like "model minority."