In honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Pacific Ties and Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) are teaming up to featuring Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Bruins. We’ll be posting one interview per day. If you’d like to share your story, fill out this form here.

Marcus is a first year Asian American Studies master’s student. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Asian Studies and Asian American Studies

How do you identify?

I identify as a gay, Catholic, bi-racial Vietnamese American.

How long have you been at UCLA?

Since October, so around 6-7 months.

Why did you choose UCLA?

I knew that UCLA has the best program to study Asian American Studies, Asian American Literature specifically, so it’s the only school I applied to. I wanted to make sure I got through this program before I decided on reaching for a PhD or law school.

How do you think your identity affects your experiences at UCLA?

In a lot of ways, I feel more accepted for my identity because UCLA is more liberal than Florida. However, I feel a general sense of exclusion because I am mixed and from the South, and am not necessarily interested in thinking the West Coast is all that much better. But despite these regional differences, my identity as a whole informed me of why I wanted to do this program. It is very central to who I am, and my work is rooted in the collisions my identity produces.

Are you in any student groups on campus? What are some of your experiences?

The only campus student group I am associated with is AASGSA (Asian American Studies Graduate Student Association). I’m still trying to get a feel for other things, though I have been looking more towards community orgs outside the academy. My experiences with AASGSA have been good and bad; good in a sense that it’s an organization I can use to get the resources I need as a grad student. Grad culture is very different, and there is a lot of etiquette needed to be understood, which makes it unfamiliar to me compared to my work from undergrad organizing. Another burden is that since my program is short, I have to be strategic on what to focus my efforts on, which ends up being more grad-centric.

What’s your favorite part of your culture(s)?

I think being Catholic, gay, bi-racial, Vietnamese, and from the South has caused me to foster an eclectic sense of humor. Because belonging as a concept of framework is something I have to constantly interrogate, I feel like I’ve learned to try to make the best of things through laughter and irony. I’m glad aspects of my identity and culture are at constant odds, because they make me more creative and critical of normativity.

What’s your greatest challenge right now?

Still trying to navigate UCLA. The South has a different culture and set of politics when it comes to ethnic studies and student organizing. So dealing with all of these differences while also understanding LA is a constant struggle.

What’s your favorite memory of UCLA?

Staying until 2 or 3 AM in the grad lounge with my cohort around finals week. It’s always fun because even though we’re procrastinating, we’re all learning and being supportive of one another. It’s a very engaging time.

What is on your UCLA or LA bucket list?

Half my Instagram crushes, who are also my fitness inspirations, live in LA so it would be cool to meet at least one of them. I also want to try really good Vietnamese food in Orange County since I miss it a lot from back home.

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!


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