Xiao’s journey began in Shanghai, China, where she attended a boarding school for deaf children. When she was 6 years old, her family decided to immigrate to the United States in search of a better chance at equity in education and in life.
However, transitioning to the United States wasn’t easy. On top of the irritatingly bright Californian sun that bothered Xiao when she first came to the United States, she had to cope with a language barrier.
“For me to understand people, I need to adjust to their movements, lip read and filter out background noise,” Xiao said. “[However] no matter how hard I tried to hear in the classroom, I simply could not close the huge gap of verbal communication.”
While there is nothing Xiao could have done about the Californian sun, she said the challenges she faced pushed her to adapt and develop communication strategies for her education and day-to-day interactions. On top of her own fortitude, her family also encouraged her to look beyond her disability and break through those difficulties.
“I had to study for classes weeks or months ahead of time.” Xiao said. “I would preview the fall semester by taking college courses over the summer, so I was able to access audio transcripts from lecture videos.”
As Xiao maintained her resilience throughout high school, she was able to excel in her classes. When she looks back on her time in school and looks to her future, Xiao believes that she has reached her highest potential.
Xiao is currently an incoming freshman at UC Santa Barbara majoring in psychological and brain sciences. She claimed that while part of her reason for choosing pre-med was to satisfy her Asian parents, she is fascinated by the combination of science and the nuance of human perspectives.
“If it weren’t for the people I’ve interacted with in my own journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Xiao said. “Hence in the future, I want to give back. I aspire to work with other people, advocate for them, and also pursue my interest in behavioral neuroscience.
Xiao hopes to capture different perspectives of people in her future, and she is open to different career options that would allow her to do so.
“Humans are complex and nuanced,” Xiao said. “We see through a lens defined by personal experience, upbringing, trauma, relationships, and etc. Writing, creating and photographing are my own creative expressions to tell my story, and the story of other people. [Therefore] who knows? In 10 years, I might end up being a playwright instead.”