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Katelyn Wong ’26 on history and heritage

Katelyn Wong ’26

Last updated May 19, 2023

By Furman News

AAPI Heritage Month at Furman
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Katelyn Wong ’26 is spending most of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in England, following the paths of centuries-old pilgrimages on the May Experience Canterbury Trails course. Her own pilgrimage toward Furman as a Chinese American student began closer to home, partly thanks to her sisters, Kayla Wong ’19 and Kelsey Wong ’21 M’22.

“I had grown up around campus already, and so I already loved the community,” said the Greenville, South Carolina, native. “Then, when my two older sisters came here, I got to know the academics and the professors a little bit more. It had everything I wanted in a school.”

Bits and pieces of culture

The Wong family poses outside Daniel Chapel for the 2022 Summer Commencement. From left: Stephanie Wong, Katelyn Wong ’26, Kelsey Wong ’21 M’22, Kayla Wong ’19 and Kirk Wong.

Wong’s father was born and raised in California after his parents emigrated to the United States from China. “My grandparents wanted to be very American, and they didn’t teach my dad and his two brothers any Chinese,” she said. “My mother was actually the one who encouraged us to connect with that culture.”

Wong’s mother made sure her daughters’ home-school lessons included Chinese culture and history. She found Chinese schools and programs in the area, including a two-week intensive Chinese language course hosted on Furman’s campus during the summer.

“And my mom used to put together a whole Lunar New Year celebration for our neighborhood,” said Wong. “So, we learned bits and pieces growing up, and when we all went to college, we ended up taking Chinese as our language.”

Coming to Furman from a home-school environment has helped Wong connect with Asian culture in other ways.

“I was integrated into a much more diverse group of people,” she said. “I was able to find people who had similar experiences, who were also Asian American and knew that culture a little bit more than my high school friends did. We all kind of gravitated toward each other.”

A family thing

Finding friends who understood certain Asian family dynamics was novel, Wong said, “because in high school I found that my family sometimes did things that my other fully white American friends didn’t really understand.”

Take Wong’s older sisters: Both have graduated and are working as teachers in the Greenville area – and both are unmarried, so they are living with their parents now, saving money toward future home purchases. They have the example of their father, who didn’t move out of his own parents’ house until after his marriage.

“Come to find out, that’s a very Asian thing to do,” said Wong. “I thought that was so normal, but my non-Asian friends would say, ‘That’s kind of weird.’ As soon as they graduate, they would be kicked out of the house. But then my Asian American friends would say, ‘No, that totally makes sense. That’s what you do. It’s the filial piety kind of deal.’”

An admissions ambassador, performer in the Furman Dance Club and the Pauper Players musical theater organization and member of the Delta Gamma sorority, Wong is planning to double major in communication studies and Asian studies.

“The Asian studies part is just kind of for fun at this point,” she said, “since I’m taking the languages anyway.”

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