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Sharmila Rudrappa, Director BUR 556, Mailcode A2200, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-9468

CAAS Partners with Austin History Center to Provide Internship Opportunity for Students

Posted: January 9, 2012
Esther Chung, AHC’s Asian American Neighborhood Liaison and Kim Nguyen, Asian American Studies Major

Esther Chung, AHC’s Asian American Neighborhood Liaison and Kim Nguyen, Asian American Studies Major

This fall Kim Nguyen, AAS undergraduate student, interned with the Austin History Center for course credit through a conference course offered by CAAS. Nguyen worked closely with Esther Chung, AHC’s Asian American Neighborhood Liaison. Chung trained Nguyen on conducting oral history interviews, a large component to how AHC is collecting histories on Asian Americans in Austin, TX. Below is a brief description by Nguyen on her experience this fall.

Austin History Center Internship by Kim Nguyen

 “Howdy” her professor said. “Howdy?” Foo Swasdee had heard it all too clearly and responded “No, I like Seven-Up.” Her first couple of days in Texas and everywhere she went she heard that word. Having never been acquainted with Texas vernacular, Foo was set on replying “Seven-up” to every “Howdy.” Back in Thailand, Howdy was a type of soft drink and one she preferred not to drink.  

Foo Swasdee’s oral interview was my very first interview. As an Asian American Studies and History major, one of the things I hold dear to my heart is the preservation of Asian American history.  Through working with the Austin History Center on collecting Asian American oral interviews I have come to appreciate the archival of interviews as a mode to understanding history. Foo’s interview chronicles different aspects of her life: from her business entrepreneurship and personal struggles to her membership with the Texas Asian Commerce of Chambers. Oral interviews, like Foo’s, provide better awareness of the condition of Asian Americans in the US.   

Naturally, when thinking about history, the first things that comes up is the mind-boggling amount of dates and events; however, oral interviews personalize history by bringing to light the meaning behind events. It delves deeper into historical events by providing firsthand accounts. In studying Asian American history, oral interviews wield multiple purposes. These archived oral interviews serve as a boon to conducting research.  Underrepresented fields of study such as Asian American history can utilize oral interviews to gain better comprehension of past events.  The increase of information and documentation on Asian Americans means a greater ability to readdress social, economic and political marginalization. With a wealth of untapped knowledge and information about Asian Americans these oral interviews could help students learn more about Asian American history.

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