Kellogg Chronicles: From Taiwan to the World, Embracing My Asian Identity in the West

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated with a water festival.

Born and raised in Taiwan, my first venture outside Asia was as an exchange student in Arizona in 2016. Growing up in a relatively homogeneous environment, this experience was pivotal in sparking my awareness of my Asian identity and how it diverged from Western values and cultures. After finishing my college education in Taiwan and gaining professional experience as an e-commerce product manager in Singapore, I returned to the United States to pursue my MBA at Kellogg. This transition offered me ongoing opportunities to reflect on my Asian heritage and engage with diverse cultures.

Holi celebration at Kellogg


Adaptability does not necessitate abandoning your core values. Rooted deeply in Confucian principles, East Asian cultures place a high value on collectivism, filial piety, and modesty — contrasting sharply with Western ideals like individualism, self-expression, and assertiveness. My personal journey of cultural adaptation reflects this difference. One of my favorite TV shows, Fresh Off the Boat, particularly resonates with me. The show depicts a Taiwanese immigrant family adjusting to life in 1990s Orlando. In one episode, 11-year-old Eddie Huang trades his traditional Asian lunch for Lunchables to fit in with his peers, symbolizing his desire for acceptance — a theme that echoes throughout my own experiences.

When I first arrived in the U.S. in my early twenties, I believed that fitting in meant adopting the habits and values of those around me. For example, I started playing American football to fit in, but it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I didn’t play it well or enjoy it much; I only tried it for acceptance, much like Eddie Huang getting Lunchables in the series. I ended up not making any new friends and was always drafted last in every football class. However, over time, I realized the importance of recognizing and valuing our differences and the significance of embracing my own Asian heritage. By playing the sports I grew up with, like basketball and volleyball, I naturally made authentic friends who shared my interests.

My Kellogg Section — Bullfrog


My experience at Kellogg has further deepened my understanding of working across cultures, teaching me to embrace our differences and discover how we can collaborate effectively. Kellogg’s unique section design brings together students from diverse backgrounds, tackling core courses as a unified group throughout our first year. This setup creates a dynamic cultural learning environment.

For instance, during a group project in our leadership class, I noticed my tendency to avoid confrontation when disagreements arose, preferring to seek a consensus. In contrast, some domestic students were more direct, openly voicing their thoughts and providing straightforward feedback. This experience, alongside insights from the book The Culture Map, helped me grasp foundational cultural differences and improve my collaboration skills with people from various backgrounds.

Through these experiences, I learned how to adapt myself to work with people from different backgrounds and be more flexible. I also learned to incorporate different values into my life — such as being more outspoken and expressive in classes and public speaking opportunities — while still honoring my Asian roots of humility and modesty. Exploring these diverse values has broadened my perspective. While they have not changed who I am at my core, they have enabled me to blend the best of both worlds and thoughtfully select the values I want to uphold throughout my life.

Taiwan Club


In life, it’s crucial to find a space that feels like home, beyond just our Asian heritage — it’s about the places that shape us and where we deeply belong. For me, this sense of home comes alive in the Taiwan Club and the Southeast Asia Club at Kellogg.

In the Taiwan Club, Mandarin is our common tongue, evoking the warmth of our first language. Here, shared experiences form the foundation of deep bonds. Whenever we felt homesick, we’d head to our favorite Taiwanese restaurant for some real comfort food, or simply enjoy a bubble tea, indulging our Asian taste buds.

Similarly, the Southeast Asia Club celebrates the varied cultures of the region. Alongside Huong Vu, my club co-president, we work to bridge different cultures and promote inclusivity. From lively celebrations to culinary delights, we invite the Kellogg community to immerse themselves in the rich diversity we proudly represent. We offer this through the sizzle of traditional Filipino Lechon Night, featuring tantalizing dishes like lumpia and adobo, or the spirited festivities of Songkran, Thai New Year, where water fights bring laughter and joy. Our events offer glimpses into the heart of Southeast Asia. By welcoming the broader Kellogg community, we not only share our rich Asian heritage but also build meaningful connections and create lasting memories.

Mixer between Taiwan Club and Africa Business Club


Gaining a deep understanding of diverse cultures is crucial for developing meaningful connections and fostering mutual understanding. Misunderstandings often arise from insufficient communication and interaction. This is why I champion engaging with diverse communities as a crucial way to reinforce our Asian identities. One great example of this effort is when Jackson Chen, the VP of Allyship in the Taiwan Club, organized the mixer between the Taiwan Club and the Africa Business Club. This event allowed us to exchange rich cultural insights, share our culinary traditions, and narrate our diverse stories, enriching our mutual understanding.

At the mixer, Tobi Agbaje from Nigeria introduced us to traditional Jollof rice from West Africa, explaining how different countries in the region have unique variations with various seasonings and recipes. In return, we introduced our African friends to traditional Taiwanese dishes such as braised food and stir-fried beef with douban sauce, sharing how these dishes are integral to our daily lives. Through these culinary exchanges, we gained a better understanding of life on the other side of the world and discovered many similarities in our cuisines, particularly in the use of seasonings, despite the vast distance between our cultures.

My first Shabbat dinner and kosher food at Kellogg


Kellogg provides numerous avenues to delve into various cultural experiences. I vividly remember attending my first Shabbat dinner, hosted by the Kellogg Jewish Business Association. Here, I not only savored authentic kosher food but also learned about important Jewish cultural practices. Additionally, I participated in a Holi celebration with my South Asian friends, immersing myself in the vibrant festivities and embracing the spirit of spring.

These interactions are more than just events; they are opportunities to appreciate the nuances that both differentiate and unify our cultures and religions. Kellogg excels in fostering an inclusive environment that naturally promotes meaningful exchanges.

Kellogg also celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage with ‘Asia Week’ — a dynamic array of events curated by the Asian Management Association (AMA) and various regional clubs. This annual celebration includes a rich lineup of workshops and personal storytelling sessions designed to highlight the diverse aspects of Asian culture and cultivate a sense of Asian pride among the broader Kellogg community.

Lechon Night: Traditional Filipino Feast Hosted by the Southeast Asia Club


Embarking on an MBA is an enriching journey that encompasses academic learning, career transitions, and deep personal reflection. However, it’s crucial to recognize that peer social pressure can sometimes push us to conform, which might cause us to stray from our unique identities. To help you maintain your authenticity throughout your MBA experience, here are a few suggestions for prospective students:

1. Reflect on your identity and values: Take time to reflect on who you are, the cultural values you cherish, and how these have shaped you. Understanding your background and beliefs helps you maintain your identity and not get lost in the crowd.

2. Establish your comfort zone: It’s essential to build a support system with people who share similar cultural backgrounds and experiences. The MBA journey can be stressful, filled with recruiting efforts and career transitions. Having a comfort zone where you can find love and care is vital, and there’s no shame in retreating to it when needed.

Mark Liao

3. Be open-minded: An MBA environment is naturally intense and diverse, encouraging you to engage with people from different cultures. While it’s important to stay connected to your roots, being open to new perspectives can enrich your understanding of the world, shape your identity, and allow others to learn about you as well.

I hope these tips guide you as you navigate your MBA journey with confidence and authenticity, maximizing both your personal growth and educational experience!

Mark Liao’s Bio:
Mark Liao, a second-year MBA candidate at Kellogg, holds the roles of Co-president of the Southeast Asia Club and Vice President of Career in the Taiwan Club. He brings a wealth of cultural insights from his studies in Taiwan and the US, as well as professional experience from Singapore. Before his MBA, Mark was a Product Manager at Shopee, a leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia. He also completed a summer internship as a Product Manager at Amazon Web Services last summer. In his free time, Mark enjoys jogging, cycling, and playing Go.



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