The Voices and Faces Project: Kaitlin Chiu
Kaitlin Chiu is a sophomore, two year member of the Smith College Lacrosse team. She is an Anthropology major, a member of Smith K-Pop Dance Crew, a member of the Sports Committee for Inclusion and Diversity, and a member of the Smiffenpoofs, the nation’s oldest traditionally all-female acapella group. She received NEWMAC Academic All-Conference Honors in 2018.
Tell me your story at Smith.
When I first started applying or thinking about college, I didn't really think about a women's college but I had been here [Smith] before because of the Girls Leadership Institute that Rachel Simmons co-founded. I went to that camp, and I came here. It was a cool experience. I started reaching out… Actually, some school reached out to me to attend a camp, a recruiting camp for lacrosse, and I went out and I did it. They said that they wanted me to come to the school and I realized that there is more to college than just an education. I had always just thought about D1 lacrosse and I definitely did not think that I could do that. I discovered D3 and I started reaching out to a lot of different schools. Mount Holyoke reached out to me and so I started reaching out to like Smith and Wellesley and I came here. I visited like three women's colleges out here and I decided that Smith was like… you know, Coach was super friendly and really nice and all the people that I met on the team were really cool and really nice. I really felt at home and so I decided to come to Smith.
I kind of came in knowing what I wanted to study - which was anthropology. I've involved myself in a couple of other organizations like the Smith K-Pop dance crew and the Smiffenpoofs, which is the nation's oldest historically all-female acapella group. I feel like I've found really good communities within Smith that helped me learn to kind of be myself and helped me be who I am. Especially I think specifically with the Smith K pop dance crew. It's a very diverse group of people who all share a common interest in K pop and Korean culture. I feel like, that was a really, really great space for me to kind of develop my… I guess more Asian side.
My high school [lacrosse] team —we were a pretty good team. My sophomore year we won the league. Our team demographic though, it was a very, I mean it's a predominantly white sport and the team was predominantly white. Prior to coming to Smith, I didn't realize that I was acting differently when I was around different people.
I just felt like I had to alter who I was and kind of hide parts of who I was from the team because they wouldn't understand a lot of the stuff that I grew up with.
I feel like coming to Smith I've been able to be more transparent about who I am and what my interests are and the pride I have in my cultural background. I think that's a pretty great thing, it feels freeing.
Growing up, I didn't really watch like American TV and a lot of the times whenever I mentioned something like a Taiwanese drama, a lot of people would kind of just look at me weird. I felt like I had to hide my interests in K pop and Taiwanese dramas. It was just something that I couldn't talk openly about, and I had to you know, act like a whitewashed version of myself rather than this super Asian person that I actually am.
What's one moment you have really felt your identity on your team?
I am Taiwanese. I don't think I've really had a chance to really feel my identity on the team. I feel like because,
…in high school, I've just had to separate it from athletics. I've kind of pushed that part of me away..
and I haven't really given myself the space, even on the Smith lacrosse team to incorporate that into my playing and into the team. I think it's a habit that I've pushed that part of my identity away. It's not something that I feel like I need to bring up all the time in team bonding or anything. I think that's just because in high school I never really felt like I could do that. It frustrates me, but I think the lacrosse team is a space that I can choose to share that identity. I'm a pretty closed off kind of person, really quiet, and I'm still working on trying to be more vocal and more out there. I think that I have become more open about it and like showing my pride and my love for Taiwan. It's just never something that I really bring up every day.
Do you feel like coming to Smith was the right decision for you?
Yes. I think that Smith is a good place for me to grow as a woman and kind of become more… obviously independent from my parents, become an advocate for myself, and kind of find my true identity as a woman and as a person of color. I think that SCID is also a great place for me to express who I am, and the K-Pop Dance Crew has been a great space for me to express that part of my identity. I think I've found like a great group of people, you know in different parts of the campus where I can fully develop my identity. Like I said I'm a very shy person, [but I’m learning to] stand up for myself and tell people when I'm uncomfortable or if I'm angry or if I want something. I have to go out and get that for myself.