Ashley Yu: America’s Next Top Ambassador

Where some friends go far, other friends can’t stop reaching for the wackiest, wildest ends. Meet Ashley Yu: a recent college graduate whose already got her Masters, teaching credential and experience, and a journey ahead of her that will make even the most adventurous Angelenos take note.

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Ashley Yu, America’s Next Top Ambassador; Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

I had the pleasure of meeting Ash in 2009 just before she went “H.A.M”, when we were two colleagues filing paperwork and planning visits to Sacramento and Washington D.C. as members of the Pasadena City College Lobby committee.

As teammates, we bonded over similar ambitions to create a respectful, diverse committee, and as friends, we hit it off as two adventurers, going wherever we could find the next great moment with each other and our community; whether it was at a karaoke bar in Little Tokyo, a sex shop in Old Town Pasadena, or just a good old fashioned diner in L.A., we were awesome together.

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PCC’s Lobby Committee of 2009: Ashley, Jimena, Moazzam, Jimbo, Marco, Michael B, and Michael M in Washington D.C, pictured by Natasha Laraway.

After her time with the Lobby committee, in the Spring of 2010 Ashley transferred from Pasadena to UC Berkeley, where she majored in Peace and Conflict Studies. Following her graduation from Berkeley in 2012, she decided to continue studying international relations for a Masters degree. However, rather than just focusing on the theoretical side of IR, Ashley made the bold decision to take her studies to the next level by going all the way out to China for her Masters of Arts in International Studies!

There, while completing her program she also served as an English teacher at Hangzhou Dianzi University in the city of Hangzhou. As might be expected, teaching proved to be a difficult task in its own right; but coupled with a culture shock that far exceeded anything Ashley could expect in China, the experience put her through an adverse journey in search of values, patience, and the will to continue after a long day in a strange place without any assurance the next day would be better.

Still, as difficult as her time there proved, Ashley persevered, and this past Spring she completed her program and saw a second group of her  students graduate from Hangzhou Dianzi.

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Ashley with her former students at Hangzhou Dianzi University; Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

Ashley returned to L.A. this past summer and has since spent her time back catching up with family, friends, and of course, the city of L.A.

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“Kickin’ it”; Chinatown, Los Angeles

Once again, however, rather than getting ready to settle down, Ashley’s gathering herself for yet another adventure abroad! This time to her roots in the homeland of her parents, to a place called Burma, which is otherwise known as Myanmar.

How? And why? And when?!

Just earlier this week Ashley landed an internship with the United Nations as a Communications Analyst, through which she’ll be working with an affiliate NGO known as The Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (L.I.F.T).

Currently, L.I.F.T is in the process of introducing new, more sustainable agricultural methods to traditional farm-workers located in the Burmese countryside, and for the next six months Ashley’s job will be to research, blog about, and participate in the development of the program. She will be on her own!

When asked how she felt about spending six months in the countryside with little WiFi and vastly reduced access to her friends and family, Ashley replied matter-of-factly:

“It’s pretty exciting, but also worrying,” she tells me.

“Whereas in China I knew a few people, in Burma I’ll be much more on my own.”

What’s more, transportation is notoriously lacking in Burma. She’ll also encounter a language barrier, as well as political tensions. Currently, the country is still locked in a civil war that dates as far back as 1948 in one of the longest internal conflicts of modern history.

Despite this, as before, although she knows the journey ahead of her will be difficult, Ashley looks forward to tracing the roots of her parents’ homeland, as well as finding her own roots within the Burmese soil.

“It’ll be pretty different, but cool,” she tells me over a chuckle.

As she smiles at the prospect of it, I can’t help but think it’s just like her: different, but fantastic, and totally on the way to greater things. One crazy leap at a time.

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Ashley at a temple in Bagan, the ancient capital of Burma

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