In an effort to build community and connection during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for East Asian Studies invited alumni, students and visitors to share personal narratives of how the pandemic is impacting their work and community. Check out one these spotlights from our community below.
Alyeska Juarez, MA ‘15, majored in East Asian Studies during her time at Stanford. After graduating from the program, she studied at the University of Oxford for a year, after which she engaged in advanced Japanese language study in Japan. Alyeska has been living and studying in South Korea for the past three years. While she has a lot of favorite memories from her time at Stanford, she recalls, “some of the most delicious meals I ate at some of the restaurants nearby campus really stand out in my mind.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Alyeska, a native of southern California, was visiting her family while on break from her studies in South Korea. When the pandemic became more acute, she was left with two choices: to stay in California with her family or to go back to East Asia and leave her family. Although her entire family wanted her to stay with them, she chose to return to South Korea. Alyeska explains “as a Latina, family is the most important aspect in one's life and people will do what they can to stay close to their blood ties. Thus, with my decision, I went against the traditional Latin norm. There is not a day that goes by I do not think about my family or how it may be years the next time I may see them. Like others, I also worry about some of my older relatives. But in order to pursue a dream, sometimes we have to sacrifice. “
Since the global health crisis began, Alyeska has reflected on number of things but would like to emphasize two. “First, I discovered that I am actually quite satisfied with only having a few quality relationships in my life.” She notes, “before the pandemic, I frequently attended events where I interacted with a large quantity of people only to probably not meet some of those people again. After the pandemic, I learned that I only need a couple of close people in my life, such as a partner or family, to feel content.” Second, the pandemic has emphasized how interconnected people are globally. She comments “although a lot of people are probably already aware of this second point, after the pandemic it became quite evident how fragile our global supply chains are, or how with less human physical activity the environment is able to regenerate.”
When asked what advice she has for students graduating in the class of 2020, Alyeska offers some advice from her own experience graduating in absentia. “Do not worry too much about graduation. When I graduated from Oxford after Stanford, I graduated in absentia since I was unable to physically attend because I was studying in Japan. Even though I did not attend the event, it still feels important to me because I created symbolic significance.”