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Growing Up Asian in Panama Stokes Creativity of Texas U Advertising Major

This week we talk with Yenipher Chung. She tells us about her unusual background. “I am from Panama. I was born in Panama, Central America, but I am not a typical Panamanian because I am Asian. My parents come from China. Americans are always surprised when they find out that I can speak Spanish even though I look Asian. They are not aware that there are a lot of Chinese there,” she says. “They even have a Chinatown there. In Panama I was surrounded by my parents. They don’t speak much Spanish with me unless they have to or they cannot find words for it. I attended school in Panama until I was fourteen so I learned Spanish from my classmates in school and Chinese at home.”

A chance to go to high school in the United States was a step in the right direction for Yehipher Chung. After that experience, she wanted to stay here for her college studies too. “I decided to come to the United States in the beginning, just to learn some English, but then after awhile I really liked it so I just stayed for college as well. I went to high school in Houston under an F-1 status," she recalls. "Right now I am attending the University of Texas at Austin and I just recently declared my major in Advertising. I am also in the business foundation program that is sponsored by the McCombs business school and I really like it very much.”

The opportunity to use her creative skills led Yenipher to want to get her degree in advertising. However, she says that it is also important for her to understand the business side of advertising. “For the advertising program and for electives you can take random classes or there are three sequences…one for creative, one for media and I think the other is called interactive which is based on web and things like that. The media is more based on the business side and the creative is more based on the artistic side,” she says. “What I am interested in is the creative side, but I also wanted to take some classes in the business school which is pretty prestigious here, so I went into the business foundation program. We have to take certain classes in order to get a certificate in the end.”

Yenipher Chung says joining a few campus clubs helped her to make friends and learn about other people at the University of Texas at Austin. “I know that the University of Texas at Austin is really really diverse and they have people coming from all over the world speaking many many languages. I think that is really fun and it creates a different environment than people from the same country, same mind-set. Even though there are so many people and even though it is a big school, it still has little communities you can join and make you feel like you are at home or like you are more connected to the people. That inspired me,” she says. “Currently I am in the Japanese association. I am the internal event coordinator. [I am] also in a bible study small group.”

What advice does Yenipher Chung have for other international students that want to study in the U.S.? “I think they have to be open-minded because a lot of things would be different, and also be involved in as many activities as they can -- but not overwhelmingly,” she says. “I think that is how you connect to people. Talk to them and share about your culture and you learn about their culture as well. I think that would be a good start for any international student -- just talk to others and learn English by talking to others instead of, like, going to your own group."

After Yenipher graduates in a few years she would like to stay in the United States for one more year. “After I graduate, hopefully there is something called optional practical training that lasts about one year after you graduate. I would like to do that here in the United States just to get more experience,” she says. "Then I would like to go back to Panama and hopefully set up my own advertising agency. I don’t know if I will have enough experience, so I will see, but that is one of the really far away plans that I want.”