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Building Bridges Among Different Communities: Getting to know Crystal Wu

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Crystal Wu was born and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. Located on the edge of Chinatown amidst large Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Jewish communities, Crystal has always been surrounded by racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. This has served her well throughout her life, as she credits her upbringing with her ability to build bridges among vastly different communities. 

Growing up the daughter of immigrants, Crystal recalls trying to reconcile portraying an “average” American kid with upholding her parents’ traditions from China. From an early age, she was aware of the stereotypes and stigmas placed upon Chinese Americans and worked actively to combat these tropes. As she grew older, though, she realized that she did not have to compartmentalize the different facets of her identity and she could embrace being both Asian and American simultaneously. 

She realized that she did not have to compartmentalize the different facets of her identity and she could embrace being both Asian and American simultaneously. 

Despite loving New York City, Crystal knew that she wanted to experience a smaller college community and attend a school that had a traditional campus. She decided on Princeton University, located in the New Jersey suburbs. While Crystal loved her experience at Princeton overall, the experience was jarring at first. In addition to being a predominantly white institution – Crystal had grown up attending schools where the majority of students were people of color – over 70% of Princeton’s undergraduates came from families from the top 20% of wealth. Crystal’s upbringing in solid working and middle class communities was a stark contrast to wealth on display at Princeton. 

Soon, though, this initial Princeton “culture shock” wore off and Crystal became part of several communities on campus. Crystal majored in history. Driven by her own upbringing and life experiences, she began exploring concepts of identity, race, and migration through her coursework. She spent a semester abroad at Sciences Po. Paris, a political science university. Inspired in part by her time in France, Crystal’s senior thesis explored the formation of black identity in France between the First and Second World Wars. She wanted to study the relationship between French and Black identities prior to the formal process of decolonization.

Driven by her own upbringing and life experiences, she began exploring concepts of identity, race, and migration through her coursework.

Crystal was also involved in several organizations and social justice initiatives outside the classroom, including sustainability and conservation campaigns. Additionally, she was engaged in work surrounding prison reform and re-employment of formerly incarcerated individuals. Between academic years, Crystal gained work experience while living in Berlin. 

Returning to Manhattan was surreal amidst the COVID-19 realities, as on top of long-term gentrification that pushed out many immigrant families from her building, people were struggling because of the pandemic.

This past spring, Crystal graduated from Princeton and returned to New York City. There, she began working remotely as a Project Assistant for Humanity in Action. Returning to Manhattan was surreal amidst the COVID-19 realities, as on top of long-term gentrification that pushed out many immigrant families from her building, people were struggling because of the pandemic. 

After spending the summer with her family, she moved to Washington DC – a vibrant and eventful place to be during the recent election and transition of power. Looking ahead, Crystal is contemplating graduate school or law school. In the meantime, she is a valued member of our Humanity in Action team and, this spring, is heading up the US Admissions process.