The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Junior Fellowship: Claire Wu

For her junior fellowship, Claire Wu ’24 visited San Francisco during the summer to research living conditions for Chinese immigrants. Her project was titled “Single-Room Occupancy Units (SROs) in San Francisco: Examining the Chinese Immigrants’ Living Condition and Debunking the Model Minority Myth.”

Wu said she first became aware of the poor living conditions faced by immigrants through social media.

“I saw a video on Instagram of the residents in an SRO talking about their living conditions,” Wu said. “There was a family of four people living in a pretty small room, and they were talking about how their living conditions were terrible during COVID, and there was no room for them to quarantine. They were talking about how it was pretty stressful, and they have a lot of mental health issues.”

Wu said she primarily conducted her research by speaking with first-generation Chinese Americans.

“We went to San Fransisco, especially Chinatown, because that’s where most of the Chinese immigrants were located when they first came there,” Wu said. “I interviewed five people who were all women, and they had kids. So I feel like that’s a really important factor in my research. They just shared their stories.” 

Wu said her observations refuted the model minority myth, which is a stereotype that portrays Asian Americans as uniformly educationally and socioeconomically successful, according to NPR. 

“The model minority myth is that Asian American people don’t need any help, or are more capable of getting high-paid jobs, but that’s actually not true,” Wu said. “At least for the interviewees that I met, they can’t get high-paying jobs because they don’t know English. They only receive the minimum wage, and that’s why they are being forced to live in SROs because they cannot afford a normal life.”

While in San Fransisco, Wu said she witnessed a demonstration by Chinatown residents against proposed cuts to municipal SRO funding.

“The government originally had a budget supporting these SRO communities, but now they’re cutting it,” Wu said. “There are cultural differences between China versus the U.S.. In China, people don’t tend to speak for themselves. If there’s some issue with their housing, they won’t speak up. So when I first came there, I expected them to be really reserved, but actually those people are pretty open and willing to fight for their rights.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Max Turetzky, Assistant Opinion Editor

Comments (0)

All The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *