By Zihan Zhou

My name is Zihan Zhou (she/her) and I am a senior undergraduate student at UCLA, majoring in physiological science and minoring in Asian American Studies. My career interests include community health, health education, health equity in the AANHPI community, and mentorship opportunities and I was so glad that through the past 10-weeks of interning with APIFM, I was able to experience each of those aspects. Doing a minor in the Asian American studies department exposed me the writings, history, film/media, artwork, and music that the AANHPI community had to offer, but this was my first time gaining hands-on experiences through field work in the AANHPI community.

My internship with APIFM is one that encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone while still being inside it. Working with the Asian American community feels like home to me. I’m able to talk about my experiences and have them be validated and deemed “relatable” by others. I realized that I am not alone in navigating between cultures and daily life situations. At the same time, this work forces me to challenge my thinking of the world around me. Why do these inequalities exist in the first place? What are the root causes and what are the services we can provide? Some of us are victims, but we can be oppressors too in other aspects and we need to be cognizant of this.

During this internship, I worked on the HEAL project with Courtney, Linda, Nare, and Corina. In working with Linda and Nare, I helped translate and design fliers for the workshops. Iw as also able to assist Courtney at Kids Town and form bonds with the children present. Seeing the kids respond with such excitement when we visited and their joy in playing with us made me realize that it wasn’t just about trying new fruits and vegetables, or doing squats and jumping jacks with them. The program is embedded in the relationships that are formed through love, care, and patience for the children. Through these experiences and relationships, I learned how to encourage children to try new foods by trying new foods myself and demonstrating through example. I also thanked them for being brave and trying afterwards.

Children are so wonderful to work with because they are curious and open. I hope they always remember to be brave and try things in the future, even as society tries to confine them into boxes and stereotypes. The relationships I built with the children and staff members are what are most important to me and inspires me to continue helping out the community in any way that I can.

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to intern with APIFM, to use and develop professional skills in working as a translator, designer, friend, educator, and more with local community organizations and members. to the staff at APIFM, thank you for being so welcoming and open to me through your actions and for sharing your knowledge and experiences. Much love and thanks to you all for giving me the opportunity to learn from and with you!