Lily Wang joins us this week to talk about life post college as an international student during a pandemic.
Jayda B. - Tell us who you are and what you do?
Lily Wang - My name is Lily, and I was born and raised in Taiwan. I lived there until I was 18 and then I moved to the US to study design. Now, I'm a UX designer building my own startup. My classmates and I started a live streaming platform since we all also have a mutual interest in music. We wanted to connect artists with fans online especially during this time.
J - Along with design, you’re also into music as well?
L - Yeah, I learned piano and studied classical music when I was little. I’m not a pianist at all but I do like to listen to music and have that live experience.
J - I miss that a lot right now.
Does the music scene in Taipei have an influence on your work?
L - I really like Taipei’s older pop music, specifically from the 20s and in the 90s - but after I moved to the US, I didn't really stay connected to the music coming out of Taiwan.
J- With moving to the US, what made you choose art school?
L - I have always been interested in illustration and photography, beginning when I was in high school. I was rebellious back then and always had a lot to say about the system, the rules. I wanted to find a space that I could freely express myself. My parents never intended on sending me to art school or sending me abroad but, when the time came to apply to college, I was secretly preparing everything I needed to apply overseas. I wrote a long letter to my dad, telling him this is what I wanted to do and one day when he dropped me off at school, I left the letter in the car with him. When I got home from school, he was very quiet and then finally he told me that if this is what I wanted to do, he would support me.
J - How would you describe graphic design versus illustration?
L - Design is more structured and logical. You have to think about the message and the brand behind whatever you create. It’s about communicating and solving problems. While I think illustration is focused more on expressing personal aesthetic and skill.
J - How are you navigating during the Pandemic?
L - Meditation and yoga have helped me a lot. I just graduated but building a startup and job hunting really isn't easy. It's been important to just stop and check-in with myself every day. Remind myself to always be mindful and find actionable ways to shift my perspective, and find peace where I can.
J - Are you currently able to go back home?
L - I don't want to risk traveling since my visa is so unstable. So I’m stuck in the US for now. My parents were supposed to come to my graduation this past May but couldn't. I haven't seen them for about a year now so I miss them and I was pretty sad when it was decided that they couldn't come because of the pandemic. It's a bit stressful but thankfully things are slowly opening up in New York.
J - Do you have to have a specific type of visa to stay in the US, even during a pandemic?
L - We have something called “OPT” or post school training basically, that allows international students to work freely for a year as long as it's connected to your major. After OPT is finished, I have STEM and I do have three years of that which is basically my visa. After even that, I will have to get a working visa, which is really hard to get now.
J - So you’ve probably have had to adjust your plans since this all started.
L - Definitely. I used to think that I wanted to stay here and get a green card, work and settle down in the US. I love New York but now I’m thinking about living in places that I’ve never thought about before. Maybe it would be nice to try somewhere more open, try something new and experience a new culture. Right now, visas in the US are so hard to get under Trump’s policies and I don't know what’s going to happen but I couldn't have planned this. I’m going with the flow everyday right now and I can't get stressed about things I can't control.
J - Is the situation back home better than how we’ve handled it in the US?
L - Taiwan has it really good right now. There's not a lot of cases. A friend of mine just got back from Taiwan yesterday and was so surprised at how things are here. In Taiwan, everything is normal. People don't need to wear masks, only in a few public places and nothing is shut down and there's not even any quarantine. He didn't realize how lucky he had it in Taiwan and it shifted my perspective that I really do need to cherish what I have, what we have right now because you never know when it can be taken away. Maybe things will get worse next year. This has really made me do a lot of inner work and look at my reality.
J - Has being in New York and going to both SVA and Parsons changed your work?
L - Being at both SVA and Parsons, which are very different art schools, helped me develop my skills but really allowed me to think logically about what I’m doing. SVA taught me great technical skills and gave me a solid graphic design foundation. Parsons taught me how to develop my own concepts and critical thinking.I needed to come up with my own brief and then create my own work. Being an international student, my English hasn't always been perfect and there's a lot of things that I struggled reading and understanding. Without going to Parson’s specifically, I don't think I could have gained skill from that point of view because English is my second language.
J - What's your mantra?
L - I try to be mindful about everything that I see, read or anything that catches my eye. It really helps my inspiration. Be grateful for the little things and notice beauty in everyday life.