Jessica Ong has traveled and lived all over the world due to her unique childhood. Her father is a Taiwanese diplomat and had to move around for work. However, Jessica reflects fondly on these experiences and feels that they have made her a more global and tolerant individual. She also feels that her desire to pursue a career in either social or criminal justice have stemmed from her time spent abroad.
HC: What places have you lived in or traveled to?
JO: I was born in Washington D.C., and when I was one years old, I moved back to Taiwan where my family’s from. I grew up in Taiwan, so I am fluent in Chinese but when I was going into fourth grade, I moved to Switzerland with my family. My dad is a Taiwanese diplomat, so ever since I was little, he was always travelling abroad and taking jobs overseas. Going to Switzerland was such a big change for my family and I. I was in a completely foreign country where I didn’t even know a single word of French or English. So, I started to learn the two languages simultaneously in the international school in Geneva, Switzerland. Four years later, my father got assigned to a position stationed in New York City so our family packed up our bags and moved again. My parents decided to settle down in Princeton, New Jersey instead of living the busy city life. Princeton was definitely the place I would call home since it was the longest place I’ve ever lived. I lived there through middle and high school. Mid- junior year, my father was promoted to an ambassador position in India. He asked my family if we wanted to go with him, but we decided that I would finish high school in the States, and he would go to India alone in the meantime. It was really difficult watching our family separate to two such extreme places in the world, but that decision was the best for everyone.
HC: What is your favorite place that you have lived? Why?
JO: My favorite place I’ve ever lived was probably Switzerland although I do sometimes wish I lived there when I was older so I could appreciate Europe much more than when I was little and naive. When living in Switzerland, I got to travel to many European countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Austria, etc. My house was literally 3 minutes away from the French border, so I used to bike there with my friends; it was the coolest thing ever! I also made friends from all over the world at the international school. It was definitely a life changing experience because it shaped me into a more global and diverse individual. This diversity definitely helped me in college because I felt more of a connection to people that were different from me. I wasn’t shy to talk to people whose first language was not English, nor was I too shy to introduce myself to foreign students. Also, moving around so much opened my eyes to the world. It made me realize there is SO much out there that I have yet to see. This summer, I travelled with my family through southern and northern India, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Moving around also made me LOVE, LOVE, LOVE travelling and experiencing new cultures.
HC: What were some of the challenges you faced with moving around?
JO: Some of the challenges with moving around so much were definitely the language barriers. The first day at my school in Geneva was super rough…I literally did not understand a word anyone was saying to me, had no friends, and didn’t know where to begin. But then I realized this was my life…and I had to learn to adjust and adapt. So, through all this packing and moving, I definitely became more of an adaptable person. I adjust to new environment and strange things very well now. All in all, I really loved moving around so much. Anything that was difficult was only temporary, but in the big picture, these experiences made me who I am today, and I love that I had such a unique experience and [a unique]dad!