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Finding the Right Path

Hand-written Bible verses on large white sheets of paper hang on the walls in Jessica Chiang’s sparsely decorated single. Chiang ’07 has been reading a chapter of Proverbs every day during her morning Bible study and posting verses that resonate with her. Most serve as friendly reminders to put God first: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5).

“It’s really easy for me to want to do everything for myself, especially when it comes to my family,” says Chiang, who attends a weekly Bible study in her house living room and Sunday services at the Amherst Koinonia Church. “That verse is just a reminder that you’re going to fail if you think you can do everything by yourself. Just trust in God, and you don’t have to stress out.”

Chiang listens to her favorite musical group, the Hillsong Church of Australia, before grabbing her backpack and leaving Cushing House for her 9 a.m. Chinese class.

Chiang, who’s half-Chinese and half-Korean, took French her first year at Smith, but enrolled in Chinese this semester so that she could learn more about her cultural roots. She attends 50 minutes of Intensive Chinese five mornings a week and hopes to spend a year in China teaching English upon graduation. “My parents spoke Chinese to me when we were young and they put us through Chinese school,” says Chiang, 20. “I still can’t read and write, but I want to be able to teach my children Chinese.”

Afterwards, Chiang has a little more than an hour before Screen Comedy—a class that has taught her to analyze films and appreciate humor as an art form. She prays before eating two bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats in Hubbard House. Then she heads to the Seelye Hall computer lab to print out articles for her Economics Seminar in Industrial Organizations and Antitrust Policy and grade papers for her Introductory Microeconomics class, in which she serves as a student assistant.

Plenty of Interests

Chiang, who’s majoring in psychology and economics, says she developed her interest in those fields after taking introductory courses in high school. After performing well in Assistant Professor Benita Jackson’s Mind/Body Medicine seminar and several other psychology courses, Chiang was asked to serve as a teaching assistant for Jackson’s Health Psychology class and to collaborate with her on research this semester. Once a week, Chiang meets with Jackson and other research assistants in the basement of Bass Hall to discuss their work. Chiang and Jackson are gathering information from the Smith community and studying the relationship between social status and health.

“She asks interesting questions and challenges me as well,” says Jackson, director of the Society, Psychology and Health Laboratory. “At first, even though Jessica was shy in class, when I saw her written answers or when I talked to her one on one, she had all kinds of ideas. It was clear to me that Jessica was thinking really deeply about the subject, although it was hard for her to assert herself in the beginning. But she’s overcome a lot of that.”

Last summer, Chiang interned for the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland. This summer, she will return to her home in Diamond Bar, California, to conduct research in health psychology for a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. She also hopes to develop her interest in real estate as a researcher for an online marketing company. “Jessica’s a good example of a student who follows things she finds interesting and out of those come really interesting opportunities,” Jackson says.

Although Chiang misses home, her religion is with her wherever she goes. “It is hard sometimes because not many people share my beliefs, but I think I’ve learned not to push my views on them,” Chiang says. “I try not to offend them or have them offend me. I think it works out.”

After classes, Chiang returns home, eats dinner, showers, studies and chats online. Before retiring to bed at 1 a.m., she glances at the verses on her bedroom walls and knows she’s on her chosen path.

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