What does it mean to be Asian American? Growing up as an immigrant? Returning “home” only to feel you really don’t belong anymore?
These stories, shared by members of the Asian Business Resource Group, offer perspective from resilient UPSers and a glimpse into how diversity, equity and inclusion take shape in our lives.
Industrial Engineering Supervisor, Global Business Services – Atlanta, Georgia
I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to the U.S. when I was 10. As many immigrants do, my parents took on several jobs just to put food on the table. One of those jobs was cleaning the UPS headquarters at night. I recall being fascinated by the headquarters, but not being motivated to share some of the responsibility and help clean the building with my parents. It was a long and arduous job – especially for a teenager.
Ten years later, I found myself interviewing for a specialist position in the same UPS building where my parents worked. I ended up receiving job offers from UPS and The Home Depot. After consulting with my dad, he suggested joining UPS. Today, I’m a supervisor on the GBS I.E. team and I love my job.
My dad suddenly passed away from a heart attack just a few weeks ago, and I would not be here with UPS if it were not for him. I dedicate this story to my dad and my family. UPS is such a wonderful company, and I’m so grateful my dad pushed me to join this organization. I’m determined to make my dad and UPS proud.
Senior Manager, Digital Access Acceleration – Alpharetta, Georgia
Growing up, one of the things I learned from being in a traditional Asian family is that you don't talk about anyone's medical history. In our culture, you don't go to the doctor unless you are literally dying. When you do, you don't talk about it.
I didn't think of its significance until a few months after turning 40, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was ill-equipped and knew nothing about my family’s medical history. Turns out, I had an aunt who died young of breast cancer. There are so many variations of the cancer and each requires a specific set of treatments. I wish I knew which type she had, how she found out about it, her cancer stage and grade, and her treatments.
Knowing these things would have helped me better prepare mentally and physically. When I went through treatments, I shared as much as possible with my two children. I hope they will never have to go through what I did. If they do, they will have an idea of what to expect and may not feel so hopeless. I also openly share my journey through social media as a breast cancer survivor.
I want to change that mindset with the next generation. I hope others in the Asian community will learn from my experience, know they can talk about real issues that affect us all and know they are not alone.
Senior Manager, The UPS Foundation – Atlanta, Georgia
My family fled the Vietnam War escaping from Laos through the treacherous Mekong River crossing into a refugee camp in Thailand, hoping to return to Laos someday.
After five years of waiting, my parents decided to resettle in the United States. We arrived in Florida in December 1979 when I was 12. Being the oldest of four children, I was responsible for learning English quickly. I would not only serve as a translator, but I also took care of my siblings and other household needs. I didn't really have time to be a kid.
One of my ways of escaping was to get married. Life was always a struggle, and higher education was not in the picture until I worked for UPS. I achieved my undergraduate degree in my late 30s while being a full-time mom and working – a dream I was able to achieve with the support of UPS.
I’m eager to share my struggles and encourage younger generations to stay motivated and aim high in their education. I currently work with several nonprofits to support higher education programs.
Senior Manager, UPS Capital – Atlanta, Georgia
My father moved to the U.S. in 1965 just after graduating from medical school. When we arrived in Richmond, Virginia we were the third Indian family in a city of 400,000. My father was the first doctor of color in a white hospital there, breaking the color barrier in our town during segregation.
For our family and other Indian families, we didn’t really know our “place.” We just knew we didn’t fit the standard definition of “American.” We didn’t look like anyone else, we didn’t go to church, we had funny names and we ate different meals.
Over the years, we built a strong and vibrant community of our own. We looked through the phone book to find common Indian surnames and invited strangers to dinner. Those strangers became our new family. We began getting together monthly in each other’s homes to worship and celebrate our culture.
As children, we had to figure out what to accept and what to reject. What to do when your mom wears a saree to field day? Do you fight the teasing, stay silent or betray your family’s culture?
The little community we started got larger and larger. We outgrew the basement worship sessions. We chose to try and influence the world around us.
My father became chief of staff at his hospital and then got involved in local Richmond politics. We helped build the first Hindu temple there. As kids, we all grew to be proud of a dual identity. To me, this is the beauty of multiculturalism and diversity. I see the world and America through many lenses, often at the same time.
Americans can now look and speak differently. Americans don’t have to go to church on Sundays or speak English at home. Americans can wear jeans or a saree and can eat hot dogs or chicken curry.
My coworkers can accept that I have a non-traditional name and speak without an accent. My daughter and her generation have no qualms about their dual identity. She has friends of all backgrounds. She and her generation have carved out their own unique identity, one with many mixtures of cultures. They’ve learned to recognize, value and include all equally.
Account Executive, Sales – Norwalk, Connecticut
I came to the United States when I was 10. My mother told me, “We are going to go to a better country to live a better life.” I couldn’t understand why I had to leave my friends and my home. What was so bad about Korea?
I had a hard time learning a new language and trying not to fall behind in school. Lunch was hell. My mom used to make kimbop (a Korean sushi roll) for me, and kids would come over and stare at my food and make fun of me for bringing sushi for lunch. I begged my mom to let me buy lunch at school like everyone else, but it was too expensive for us at the time.
I had my friends throughout school, but there were always kids who made fun of my name, my accent, my eyes and my overall face structure. I still remember vividly – one kid literally asked me if I got hit by a frying pan because my face is so flat.
In high school it got to the point that I snapped when this girl kept berating me with racial slurs. I stood up for myself for once and we got into a fight. My mom got really worried and sent me to Korea to live with my grandmother. When I went back to Korea, I felt like I didn’t belong
there either. I had no friends and they treated me like an outsider because I
was too Americanized.
Now with a daughter who is about to go to kindergarten, that is my biggest worry. I don’t want her to struggle with her identity like did. I want to provide a better life for her and teach her to stand up for herself. Being different is okay.
UPS is proud to be a people-led company and values the daily realities of our employees. Read more stories below that recognize and celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.