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My Story

I grew up in Qingdao, a beautiful city on the east coast of China. Because psychology is not part of the mainstream culture in China, I did not know what it was until I stumbled upon a psychology book in middle school, by which I was immediately fascinated. Reading that book felt like meeting a crush for the first time, flooding me with excitement and leaving me hungry for more. My passion for psychology led me to pursue studying psychology in the United States.

On my 19th birthday, I got on a plane leaving for the United States to pursue my undergraduate training in psychology at the University of California, San Diego, which took financial support from my entire family across multiple generations. When I emigrated from China, I carried my family’s hope, as well as my collectivist cultural values, including an intimate understanding of the priceless value of interpersonal relationships. 

My passion for psychology, along with my gratitude for and indebtedness to my family, motivated me to make the most out of my undergraduate training. Meanwhile, my social environment changed drastically. Leaving my home country, I entered a culture where people spoke a different language and lived according to a different set of social norms. In order to adapt, I stepped outside my comfort zone to connect with people of different backgrounds, seeking to establish my identity in this foreign land. 

 

Keenly aware of the unique challenges faced by international students, I explored how international students’ social contact with different cultural groups was related to their emotional well-being in my undergraduate honors thesis. This research experience was deeply rewarding and cemented my desire to pursue a career in clinical psychology. Through coursework and research, I developed a strong interest in the role of emotions and social relationships in psychopathology. In that sense, psychology transformed from a crush to a committed love.

During graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, I continued to view human behavior and psychopathology through an interpersonal lens. I was struck by how little researchers have focused on social contexts for understanding emotion regulation, given how often people turn to others following emotional experiences. I conducted empirical research to examine interpersonal emotion regulation in both laboratory and naturalistic settings. In my clinical work, I have developed a strong interest in couples therapy. I am invested in helping couples communicate effectively and strengthen their connection. I am also energized by the challenge of forming a strong alliance not only with each partner in the couple but also with their relationship during these highly dynamic therapy sessions.

Having lived in the United States for 10 years, I have formed a new sense of identity, one that merges collectivist and individualistic values. My experiences in both cultures have exposed me to a wide range of human values, beliefs, behaviors, and emotions. These experiences have strengthened my strong interpersonal perspective and allowed me to conduct research creatively and view therapy clients in relation to their larger sociocultural contexts. I aspire to develop a career as a clinical scientist with both clinical and research expertise. More broadly, my lifelong goals include becoming a successful psychologist and research scientist, forming deep and meaningful connections, and traveling the world. 

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