Student Story

The Power of Positive Community: First-Year Rep Janet Yi '24 Engages with Student Orgs

What is your major?

I am in the nursing program here at Simmons!

Tell us about your experience as a first-year virtual student.

Janet Yi at her computer on her first day of virtual classes.
Janet's first day of virtual classes!

This year as a virtual student I remained home in New Jersey for both semesters, and it did not start as the most thrilling experience. My mind had been filled with the promise of a life-changing, soul-finding undergraduate adventure for most of my life, and to start my education like this was unexpected. I was apprehensive about how I would meet people and how deep the connections would be. However, I was surprised to find myself making genuine friendships and even meeting my future roommate!

Making these connections did not come without its growing pains. I had to place myself in uncomfortable situations often, whether that meant awkwardly messaging a classmate for their phone number or social media handle or joining impromptu study groups. Nevertheless, I am so grateful that this year has taught me boldness, and I am thankful for the friends it led me to.

Tell us about the Asian Students Association.

The Asian Students Association (ASA) on campus empowers its members with a strong and unified voice in the Simmons University community through engaging in identity development and community building. We also celebrate Asian heritage, raise awareness about issues that affect Asian communities, and educate the greater Simmons University community regarding aspects of Asian cultures and identities.

Being South Korean and growing up in a primarily caucasian town, I did not have many around me that held my same identity. In addition, there was no organized way for me to gather with those with who I identified with and I desperately looked forward to my future university to do so. Being supported by a community that held my same identity is vital for me, especially during this virtual school year, so joining this organization was one of the first things I did as a Simmons student!

Tell us about the programming the ASA has for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

So far, ASA had a poetry/story-telling workshop called “An Ode to My Asian Self” in collaboration with Emmanuel College ASA. We reclaimed our Asian identities and held a space to love and embrace our identities. Simmons ASA will also be virtually attending the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference on May 21-23, which Simmons’s ASA has attended annually. This year, the theme for the ECAASU Conference is resilience, and they will host several different workshops and performances.

Our hope is that through this month, we celebrate beyond the food, culture and the celebration of Hollywood representation, and instead celebrate our resilience and the sufferings of our community throughout the past year. We hope through APAHM that we may reach Asian members of the community who have not been in our community space and share our culture and experiences with others!

Nevertheless, I am so grateful that this year has taught me boldness, and I am thankful for the friends it led me to.

As the first-year rep for both the ASA and the Simmons Student Nursing Association, why is engagement important to you?

Although I did not grow up gathering with those of my similar ethnic identity, I was highly involved in the digital arts throughout high school. I was the founder and president of the Photography Club and served as a partner with the Newspaper Club to organize their digital imaging. With this community united by enthusiasm for the digital arts, I overcame difficulties and felt support from my like-minded peers.

Similarly, being surrounded by people with similar mindsets and especially the same identities as an Asian American or nursing student is crucial. I strongly believe in the power of positive communities to push you closer to achievement and strength. I knew that isolation would lead me towards a place of stagnancy both mentally and socially, which is contrary to what I strive towards. Ultimately, for me, having a community is a step to fully embracing your identity and surrounding yourself with positive support.

What have you learned from your experience as a first-year rep?

Being a first-year rep has taught me tenacity, and it has also brought me optimism. As I mentioned, starting my undergraduate education remotely was not something I had hoped for, and I was unsure of the virtual student-life conditions. Having to reach out to professors and peers was an experience that taught me resilience and a greater passion for these communities that I am a part of.

Although I haven’t stepped on campus yet, I was able to feel the warmth and sense of community that Simmons offers through the screen. Joining these organizations has introduced me to amazing people and classmates that I can’t wait to meet in person! I look forward to next semester with enthusiastic anticipation!

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