Cultural Experience | China

CT Dialogue : Mentor Spotlight with Belyn Lai.

Meeting a Mentor Makes College Meaningful

When I was a freshman in college, I desperately needed inspiration that my hall, classes and work were not able to give me. I consequentially went out to recruitment week for a business fraternity on the UC Irvine campus called Delta Sigma Pi and met someone who always has pushed me to be better and do better. During college, she participated in a staggering list of extracurricular activities, including studying abroad to Beijing, China. Besides being involved with numerous on campus organizations, obtaining several amazing internships and having one of the most passionate personalities I have ever seen, she is always the person I go to at the first sign of trouble.

Belyn Lai, now a 24 year old professional, graduated from UC Irvine in 2012, and is now working as a Marketing & Event Coordinator in San Francisco, California. While working for a distributor of Sub-Zero and Wolf (high-end kitchen appliance brands), she has the task of marketing these appliances through food and wine (aka living the good life).

Although she now lives in NorCal, her and I still keep in touch and commonly talk about patriarchy, creativity and travel.

How did you choose your career & location?

I currently reside in San Francisco. With that said, location was the first thing I focused on. While, I will always love Southern California and I do enjoy it more than the Bay Area, I know that it was the best move because of the tech scene, more opportunities, and an overall higher income.

I chose my current position because the tasks entail everything I enjoy doing. I currently serve as a marketing and event coordinator for a distributor of Sub-Zero and Wolf. Sub-Zero and Wolf are high-end kitchen appliance brands.

Belyn Lai Food

I am in charge of the digital marketing for our company (website, email marketing, social media), but a strong function of my position is event marketing. All of our event marketing consists of great food and delicious wines. I have had the pleasure of working with celebrity chefs, and supporting sponsorships of major food and wine festivals such as SF Chefs and the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.

What was your greatest achievement in college?

Besides passing Calculus and graduating, I would say my greatest achievement is helping an organization win 2 national awards. One award was in community service, while the other was in professional activities. While I did spearhead the process for both awards, it definitely took a whole chapter to make this happen. It’s definitely a significant accomplishment to me.

What are some of the organizations you were involved with in college?
Below is a short list of just a few of the organizations that I was involved with during college. They all are important to me, and I am glad that I was involved with all of them because they each gave me a unique experience and taught me valuable life goals during my collegiate life.
Reaffirming Ethnic Awareness & Community Harmony (REACH) 

An organization and a year-long class dedicated to raising awareness and educating the campus and community on social injustice issues and promoting the appreciation for diversity among all dimension of identities; in every meeting, we discussed and pushed the limits of our comforts to discuss and educate each other in the social issues that minorities face on a daily basis, and how we could make positive impacts to help reduce the impact of social injustice problems.

This was another organization introduced to me by my RA. You can probably guess that he had a huge impact on my life (for that, you will always have a special place in my heart, Alex). I actually had no idea what I was getting into. I thought, “Hey, I like diversity. Diversity is cool. I’m gonna join a club that allows me to hang out with people I normally wouldn’t hang out with.” But, it was so much deeper than that. Joining this organization was like taking the red pill, and I saw how far down that rabbit hole went. I was exposed to all kinds of realizations and truths about the world and how so many injustices have been socially structured. I learned why the rich get rich while the poor get poorer; why it truly is much more difficult to be a woman.

Best memory: It’s an odd memory, but one memory that stands out to me is a debate we had about male privilege. One classmate was getting really heated about the topic because he felt as though he was attacked, and that women were blaming men for their challenges in life. We tried to explain that it wasn’t a blame game, but rather an attempt to teach and understand the existence of gender inequality. He was so frustrated, he walked up and stormed out. It’s a vivid memory because while the discussion seemed to heat up, I knew it was kind of a good thing. It’s good to get people to think about these things, even if it may sometimes stir up emotions because one day they might see it actually happen and everything will finally click.

Delta Sigma Pi 

A professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; this brotherhood helped its members develop themselves personally and professionally in all walks of business.

This was definitely another high-impact organization. Joining Delta Sigma Pi gave me a multitude of opportunities to enhance my leadership, organization, communication, and planning skills. Many of the responsibilities and tasks I perform at my current job are all related to the responsibilities I had while serving as a leader in this organization. It definitely sounds like a “recruiting” kind of remark, but it’s TRUTH! Every organization, including this one, is what you make of it – so I ran with it. My goal was to make a huge impact on this organization, and I really did by helping this chapter win 2 national awards and even starting an annual Las Vegas Tour tradition. Most importantly, I developed strong friendships with the people here, and these are bonds that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I really did find another family here.

Best memory: The entire Las Vegas Tour weekend. It was stressful. It was EXHAUSTING. In fact, I didn’t really go out too much because I was too tired from planning, but it’s the best memory I have because it marked the beginning of a tradition. It was also the main project that helped our chapter win one of the national awards.

California Young Women’s Collaborative (CYWC) of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)

An organization and year-long class dedicated to public health research on the UC Irvine campus, specifically on women’s reproductive health; we conducted a cohort study and used our findings to promote and support certain bills and policies to legislators during the API Policy Summit. We also used these findings to help educate the campus about women’s health.

I love, love, love this organization/class. I studied Public Health Policy in college, and was able to utilize everything I learned in this org. What I loved most was being able to make a huge difference by analyzing and publishing information to support some of the challenges women face in terms of their health. I learned so much about the struggles of other women and I actually learned how to appreciate my own health.

Best memory: We used to have off-site retreats where we made dinner together and would have a whole lesson plan to follow. In each retreat, we bonded together and learned so much about each other, and the topics that were discussed.

Where did you study abroad?

Beijing, China. While I want to tell the whole world to study abroad in China, I’ll be honest and say this: Wherever you choose to study, you will have a BLAST.

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What was your favorite & least favorite thing about your study abroad experience?

I honestly do not have a “least favorite thing” about my experience. While culture shock is no fun and it was not a pleasant experience going through it, I truly appreciate it in hindsight. My favorite aspect about my study abroad experience is meeting and making friends from all over the world. We took classes and studied throughout the day, then explored the culture and nightlife during the evenings and weekends. Another thing I really loved which was specific to my program was the opportunity to make a difference in the Chinese community. Our group was able to sponsor students from rural provinces in their education from elementary up until the college application process. I loved that I was able to do that.

What is one thing you regret not doing while studying abroad?

I regret not talking to more of my classmates. I think I was too fresh-out-of-high-school to want to converse and socialize with everyone. Well, hindsight is always 20/20, and if I ever get to study abroad again, I will definitely make sure I develop bonds with much more people.

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Where do you want to travel next?

I want to travel to Spain! Paellas all day! But really, I want to visit the museums and architecture to understand its history, while eating the food, drinking the wine, enjoying the nightlife to get a difference cultural experience. I’m excited to be uncomfortable again because I know I will expand my horizons.

Belyn Lai
If you could do college over again – what are the top three things you would do differently?
Make school a priority. Throughout my time in college, I made my organizations higher priorities than my own grades. Now that I want to apply to grad school, I’m definitely wishing I had focused more on my education.
Obtain more meaningful internships. In addition to the organizations, I also had a handful of internships throughout my time at school. If I could do it over, I would have been much more picky about my internships and apply to larger companies, instead of smaller ones. It’s not exactly a matter of name, but a matter of applying to a well-established company so that you have your foundation set there. Also, I wish I had looked into rotation programs because those are great opportunities for new grads.

Talk to my professors. I never fully took advantage of office hours with all of my professors, and I wish I did. They are such great resources and they are so full of personal and professional wisdom. I did develop a great connection with the facilitator (pretty much a professor) for the California Young Women’s Collaborative organization and course, and that was at the end of college. After creating a great bond with her, it made me think of all the other professors I missed out on!

Molly Greathouse

University of California, Irvine | 12 stories

Molly Greathouse is a 4th year at UC Irvine who spent her 3rd year in school in Lyon, France. This summer she will be off to Australia for one last taste of the collegiate life before entering the Real World.


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