May is Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American Heritage Month. Throughout the month, The Daily will highlight members of the university community who are of Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American heritage to celebrate their accomplishments as members of the campus community and shed light on their experiences at CWRU.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Claire Wong took being bilingual for granted. The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Wong spoke Tagalog with her immediate family and a few of her Filipino friends, but never thought much of being fluent in such a “niche” language.
Over time, she’s grown to increasingly appreciate this connection to her culture. Now, hearing someone speaking Tagalog in public automatically makes her feel less alone—even in the most foreign of places.
“One of my favorite stories from conducting a research internship abroad last year was striking up a conversation in Tagalog with a stranger on a bus while I was traveling through Italy and promptly being led to the nearest Filipino foods store,” Wong said.
Her internship was located in Konstanz, Germany, at the Center for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior. A third-year student double majoring in neuroscience and classics, Wong has been nebulously interested in biology for as long as she can remember—but she has Case Western Reserve to thank for encouraging her to explore subjects outside of her intended field of study.
“I know that [students] love to complain about SAGES and breadth requirements (myself included),” Wong noted, “but I have to give credit to my very first SAGES seminar (The Greek and Roman Humanities) for making me realize classics was so fun to learn about to the point that I eventually decided to take it up as a secondary major.”
Away from home
Wong made the decision to leave the Pacific Northwest and attend college in the Midwest for a few reasons: It gave her space to find herself away from home, she received a very generous academic scholarship, and she knew CWRU, being a well-regarded research institution, would help her pursue her interests—even if they changed over the course of four years.
She never expected to go to college in a city as big as Cleveland, but she’s explored all it has to offer, from restaurants in AsiaTown to museums in University Circle and concerts at Severance Hall.
As the campus community celebrates Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American Heritage Month this month, Wong encourages people to attend events hosted by the Filipino Student Union because they “put a lot of effort into them, they’re really fun, and they usually involve a lot of good food.”
“Honestly I might not be the greatest at educating others about my heritage since I’m one of those people who likes to poke fun at how weird some of our traditions/youth culture/ingredients can be,” Wong explained, “but really I’d just encourage people to try more Filipino things when they get the chance.”
Also at Case Western Reserve, you can find Wong in the lab, art studio or at the archery range. She’s also one of the executive board members of the university’s classics club, Atlantis, and she’s a Study Abroad Ambassador. In addition to her internship abroad, Wong completed another internship in 2021 at a sleep lab in Oregon. When she graduates, Wong hopes to pursue graduate school.