Intern Spotlight: Claire Nguyen

Meet Claire Nguyen, one of our interns for our 2020 Summer Intern class! Claire (she/her) is a second-generation Vietnamese American undergraduate at Penn majoring in History with minors in Asian American Studies and English. She has immersed herself in several Southeast Asian American spaces including the Penn Vietnamese Students’ Association, VietLead’s Civic Empowerment and Census Field Teams, and UC Berkeley’s Southeast Asian Student Coalition. She currently sits on Penn’s Asian American Studies program’s Undergraduate Advisory Board as Co-Chair and is in the inaugural class of the Penn Asian American Studies Fellows, with whom she is researching Asian American and Pacific Islander incarceration and deportation.

Read on for more about Claire!

Q: What made you want to work with APIAVote?

I have been involved in electoral organizing locally in Philadelphia as an Issue Lead on VietLead’s Civic Empowerment Team and a canvasser on their 2020 Census Field Team. However, I wanted to better understand how a national organization like APIAVote organizes on a larger scope. I have had a few friends previously intern at APIAVote, and they all had wonderful experiences, so I decided to apply. I was actually supposed to study abroad in London this summer, but due to COVID-19, the study abroad program was suspended. I may not be sipping tea by the Thames, but working with APIAVote staff during a crucial year for civic engagement has been awesome! Being behind the scenes during the Presidential Town Hall and Leadership Summit was super cool.

Q: Have you learned anything interesting during your time here?

Voting looks very different state-to-state. Working on COVID-19 updates to the state-specific election information pages on APIAVote’s website, I was able to see how drastically different local voting policies were. In my home state California, vote-by-mail is nothing new. In Pennsylvania, where I currently call home, vote-by-mail was introduced for the first time during the 2020 Primary Election in June. In other states, legislators are taking it to the courts to prevent people from voting-by-mail. It’s been interesting to track these changes and watch for these changes, especially during our very unique circumstances in 2020 as a Presidential election year, a Census year, and a fully-fledged pandemic year. I have gained an invaluable vantage point to voting across the country, and it has enriched my perspective on how important it is to empower and mobilize the AAPI electorate through any circumstance.

Q: Name one memorable experience you had with us.

With Chris, our Field Associate, I have been working on a Census education curriculum for NCAPA that has incorporated some bits of Ethnic Studies in the social studies section of the curriculum. Chris and I were able to pilot the curriculum in a classroom in Tacoma, Washington, and it was really fun and exciting for me to come up with activities and to implement them in the classroom. My mom, a Vietnamese refugee, was actually first resettled in Tacoma. While building the curriculum for the pilot, I learned a lot from Chris (who is from the Tacoma area) about local history in Tacoma, and this really encouraged me to learn more about my family history, especially the lesser known things like what it was like to be one of two Vietnamese families in all of Tacoma during the 1970s. I am very passionate about making Ethnic Studies more accessible, and it was great to do this through Census Education while also learning more about my family history.

Q: Why is it important to amplify AAPI voices?

AAPIs are the fastest growing minority in the group in the United States. We have so much potential for power as an electorate, and we need to empower our communities to get out and make changes in our world. We have unique experiences as migrant communities, and we understand how to build systems of collective care in order to make our communities prosperous. When we tap into this power, we will be unstoppable.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

I love to cook with copious amounts of garlic. Nothing beats the smell of sizzling garlic and onion in hot oil. I also love to watercolor paint. I am a very impatient person, so watercolor painting is one way for me to mediate and practice patience. This summer, I have been helping my mom garden, and I harvest cherry tomatoes every evening. That has been a favorite summer activity of mine.