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About Me.

I'm a Chinese-American girl, transplanted into the SF Bay Area; a Computer Science major but not entirely a techie; a curious mind, traveling the world, capturing it all too often through the lens of an iPhone; an adventurous foodie that cooks a little and tastes a lot.
I am Xinlan Emily Hu.


On Writing

When I was baby, I, like many Asian children, went through a ritual in which my parents placed a variety of objects in a room, and I was allowed to freely explore and choose one. Some babies choose the stack of cash (much to their parents' delight). Others choose the stethoscope, which is pretty much the same thing as choosing the cash, since it means you'll become a doctor.

I chose the pen. And so, I fell in love with writing, from the very beginning.

On My Name, and Growing Up

My first name, Xinlan, is loosely pronounced "Shin-lawn" (I have this long-running gag of telling people it's like hitting your shin when mowing the lawn). I was born in Wuhu, Anhui Province, China.

When I immigrated to the United States at age four, my mother enrolled me in preschool. No one, it seemed, could pronounce my name (this would continue for the rest of my life).

"We're so excited to welcome your little one, ah...Z...Ex...um..."

"It's Xinlan."

"She-lan, yes. We'll be delighted to see her in school."

"You mean Xinlan."

So my parents decided to give me a new name. A common one. In a move fraught with the politics of assmilation (we'll have to unpack that later), they gave me the most common name they could find on the internet: Emily. Now, instead of having a name no one could pronounce, I shared a name with 5 other girls in my grade.

Growing up with a funny name, it didn't help that my family also lived in mostly-White, southern Indiana. I grew up looking and feeling different, but my identity was something I learned to embrace. Later, when I went to college in California, I'd always find myself surprised at how common and mainstream Asian culture is there. Back in Indiana, one does not simply ask, 'do you wanna grab boba?'

On My Interdisciplinary Life

I attended high school in Louisville, Kentucky, at duPont Manual High, a magnet program. I was nominally enrolled in the liberal arts program, but I took so many classes in the math and science program that I became a sort of hybrid crossover. This sense of academic hybridness generally defines much of my academic life. Even now, my current work is an interdisciplinary mix of computer science, psychology, legal studies, and other disciplines.

At Stanford, I'm studying Computer Science and concentrating in Human-Computer Interaction. I'm also working on a coterminal (5th year) Master's in Symbolic Sysystems, a mixture of neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, and computer science. Ultimately, I am passionate about using technology to empower people; to design digital spaces that bridge gaps, increase access to social institutions, and bring people together. I've worked on Microsoft Cortana, for example, helping build a productivity tool that simplifies morning routines and reduces the onslaught of notifications.

Looking foward, I hope I'll use this website/blog to document parts of my journey, and I hope you'll come along.