Winner of the 2022 College Podcast Challenge Considers Her Chinese Identity: NPR


After four years of her life in the US, Arya Young realized that she needed more balance between her two parts – Yang Kyun Yue in Shanghai and Arya Young in New York City.

Muhammad Sadaq for NPR


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Muhammad Sadaq for NPR


After four years of her life in the US, Arya Young realized that she needed more balance between her two parts – Yang Kyun Yue in Shanghai and Arya Young in New York City.

Muhammad Sadaq for NPR

The story first appeared in NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge newsletter. Sign up here.

Arya Young did not Becomes Arya Young till 16 years.

She was moving from her home in Shanghai to Lancaster for high school. Her Chinese name, 沁 悦, or Yáng Qìn Yuè, “was very difficult to pronounce in English,” Young explains in her entry for NPR’s College Podcast Challenge in “What’s in a Name”. Out of the 10 finalists, the judges selected Young’s Audio Story as the Grand Prize winner.

On the podcast, Young, now a second-year student at New York University, tries to train his English-speaking friends to pronounce his Chinese name correctly. It’s not going well.

“Imagine doing it in front of people’s classroom on the first day of school or at a party because you can not fix every single person you meet,” Young says in his podcast.

She knew it would be easy to build a house for herself in the US if people could say her name.

It takes more than a new name to feel like it belongs to you

Taking an English name is not an uncommon practice among Asian international students. As one of Young’s old high school teachers explains in the podcast, “The [international] Students from Spain and students from Italy kept their names. Students from Asia did not keep their names. A student may have retained their Chinese name during the five years I was there. All rights reserved There was an American name. “

After hours of checking lists of baby names, Young settled in Aria because it reflected her hopes for a new life in the United States.

“It’s a musical term. [An aria] It’s like a song, “she tells NPR.” It’s like my new life is going to be sweet.

But changing her name does not mean she should attend her new Catholic high school in the middle of the Dutch nation of Pennsylvania.

“Being Asian was not really acknowledged or appreciated,” she explains. Young says he and other Asian international students have faced subtle attacks and racism at their new school.

“People would come up to us and ask if we could eat dogs,” she recalls. “People come to me and ask questions, ‘Do you know how to be Asian?’ As if they had never seen an Asian before.

Yet she was determined പെടുന്നുA large part of it was to assimilate into American culture.

“I rejected my name. I rejected Yang Kyun Yu. I rejected my Asianness because I felt I was alone,” Young says on his podcast.

After four years of his life in the US, Young realized the need for a more balanced relationship between Yang Qin Yue from Shanghai and Aria in New York City. She murmurs about how she can respect her Chinese identity as she continues to build a life for herself in the United States. That’s why she says she made “what a name”.

A name that reflects where she was going and where she was

In her podcast, recorded on Young’s college radio station, she tells the story behind her name: her parents used Chinese characters for “water” and “heart” in the hope that she would be “gentle, clean, nourishing like water,” and “have a brave and kind heart.”


Young recorded her successful podcast on WNYU, on her college radio station, and has her own radio show.

Sequoia Carrillo / NPR


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Young recorded her successful podcast on WNYU, on her college radio station, and has her own radio show.

Sequoia Carrillo / NPR

For a long time, her Americanized name, Arya, did not seem to make much sense to her. But now, she says, “this life in the states – it’s important to me. These people know me as Arya. So this name makes sense to me, because there are people here who know me by this name.”

She feels that her Americanized name is a part of her power – a way to shape the person she wants to be.

“I chose this name myself, for me. This is the person I created myself,” she says. “In a way, I think it’s liberating.”

As she continues to make her mark in the US, her old name seems to be getting more and more distant. But her last name, Young, is not right now.

“I’m just like my parents’ daughter. She’s not only my mother’s daughter, but also my father’s daughter. It hurts me a little bit,” she admits.

Young says her relationship with her father deteriorated and that she was initially raised by “two very strong and resilient women” – her mother and grandmother. She wants to take her mother’s first name, Sue, as a way of honoring her role in her life.

While paying tribute to where she came from, it is also a step towards building a home for her in the US.

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