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AAPI Month with Helen Zhang

May 11th, 2023

We continue to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at Galloway by paying homage to and gaining insight from those who trace their ancestry to Asia, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands territories. In that spirit, we asked our team member Helen Zhang to share her story.

Helen was inspired to pursue civil engineering after speaking with a friend in college who was studying the same field. While a Colorado School of Mines student, Helen Helen Zhang, a civil design engineer at Gallowy, shares her story for AAPI Monthinterned with Galloway to gain experience with real projects and hone her skills. In September 2022, Helen joined Galloway full-time as a civil design engineer, where she enjoys the puzzle-like challenge of paving plans and working with her colleagues.

How has your Asian heritage shaped who you are today?

A big part of my heritage was shared with me by my parents. They always found ways to share their favorite dishes and memories with my sister and me and with each other. I got to see how diverse China is culturally through my parents because they are from very different parts of China. My dad made sure I could handle spicy food at a young age, and my mom would me make tea the way her mom did. I grew up speaking Mandarin and have many memories of visiting China with my family. These things have stayed with me as I’ve grown up because they are a part of who I am.

Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

A tradition my family had was celebrating Chinese New Year. This holiday is celebrated with lots and lots of food and decorations. While visiting China, my mom had my sister, and I pick out traditional silk dresses (qipao) for special occasions. These dresses and the decorations are usually red, and gold (mine is pink), and my favorite tradition is receiving red envelopes filled with money!

Do you have any Asian-American persons who inspire you?

My friend, Natalie Haber, is someone that I look up to a lot. Natalie is a great friend and has always given me the space to be myself, and because of that, I have shared so much of my life and heritage with her. My appreciation for my heritage comes from having Nat as a role model. Natalie is an incredible person.

What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

Honestly, I did not know that AAPI month was a thing until recently. But I’ve realized that I have struggled to appreciate my culture.

In recent years, I’ve seen many elements from Chinese culture gain popularity online as new trends. These trends include recipes, makeup and beauty, and skincare. Before these trends, I rarely had conversations with friends about my culture. And while I’m happy to share my knowledge on gua sha’s, cupping, etc., I realize I only felt comfortable when gua sha’s becoming a popular skincare tool or because Michael Phelps started using cupping before the 2016 Olympics. For much of my life, my heritage has stayed within the walls of my parent’s house, and I feel like “trends” have dictated which parts of my culture are acceptable.

AAPI month has been a time for me to appreciate my parents for bringing so much of their heritage so my sister and I could experience as much as possible and understand the history and significance. It has also been a time for me to appreciate everyone who has shared their culture and stories with me.

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