KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 ― Cassandra Hsiao, the Malaysia-born 17-year-old who was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools in the US, announced that she has chosen to go to Yale.
Hsiao, who was born to a Taiwanese father and Malaysian mother in Johor Baru, also told The Star that she will be pursuing an arts degree while majoring in theatre.
She said that she will use her experience and struggle as an immigrant in her future stage work.
“I want to show that Asians are not one story, but there are so many stories within that genre to explore. I want to explore identity,” The Star reported her saying.
Her plan is to study writing for theatre at Yale, before either moving back to Los Angeles where she has been living, or New York to start a career in the arts.
Hsiao made global headlines when she was accepted into the premier universities, largely due to her impressive university admissions essay about her experience learning English despite it not being her family’s first language.
The Ivy League comprises eight private higher education institutions in the US: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale.
On social media, Hsiao said that since her story went viral, she has received messages of support and many claimed they connected with her story of struggling as an outsider, grappling with the language, and inspired others to find what family and home means.
She also wrote on her blog that although she has had mostly positive and encouraging messages, she also has her share of naysayers, with some Americans turning it into a political issue and some Malaysians claiming she cannot call Malaysia “home”.
“One tweet in particular from Malaysia made me laugh. It said, ‘Me when Malaysians glorifying Cassandra Hsiao’ attached with this gif from Mean Girls: ‘She doesn’t even go here’.
“While funny and apt for my generation, the questions still sting: do I even belong anywhere? Can I truly call anywhere home?” she wrote.
Hsiao, who said she visits Malaysia every two years, said she did not feel out of place growing up in Southern California where she lived with a community of “people like her”, but still struggled with her cultural identity and belonging.
“No, I’ve never been told straight up to go back to your country. I’ve never been called chink or gook or coolie, or had people pull up their eyes to mock mine.
“But I have witnessed discourtesy towards people of my color at school, in an apartment complex, and on the subway. I’m not sure if it is ‘major’ enough to be classified as racism, but all I know is what I’ve experienced.”
She said she wants to use her voice and experience as a Chinese American woman, and hopes to “dispel the blanket narrative of ‘immigrant’ and to push for Asian American representation in Hollywood”.