Natalie Chin


2022 Contestant #7

What's in a Name?

My name is 陳美. My Mandarin Chinese teachers guessed at our surname character because I have never seen it. It could very well be that as I bug some of my more knowledgeable family members and find out more about us, the character I use could change!

My parents gave my grandfather carte blanche for my Chinese name, and he chose a single character: 美, or “beauty.” The way my parents tell it, he was so overjoyed upon meeting his first grandchild, he could not help but give me this name. Due to language barrier and classic Chin family stubbornness (he only wants to talk about what he wants to talk about), I doubt I'll get any more insight.

However, when I went to China, I saw 美 everywhere! As someone who hardly speaks or reads any Chinese - Mandarin, Cantonese, or otherwise - it was a treat to see my name all the time. Then, I looked up how to say “America” in Chinese.

A brief digression: my grandpa named my father “Jean,” pronounced the French way, because he was born in Canada (now my dad has rebranded himself as “Gene”). My uncle and aunts were born in America, and their names are Andrew, Audrey, and Amanda. Starting to see the connection?

So of course with my Chinese name, I realize that my grandpa finally gave up and just named me after 美国 - America. Upon this epiphany, my cackles could be heard throughout the economy section of my flight home. Gotta love my family. We’re never boring!

Click. “Good girl!” Click. “Nice job!”

That was the soundtrack of the first 4 months of my puppy’s life with us. Every feeding time was an opportunity for obedience and behavior training. While I trained her, she trained my husband and me in kind. We learned what to keep out of the reach of her tiny puppy teeth and floppy puppy paws. What could we do to make her feel safe, cared for, and avoid dangerous behaviors or circumstances? This question is not just one we should ask for our own pets. What can we do to create a more harmonious environment for the animals on our planet?

Working at an animal hospital, animal shelter, and nature center, I’ve learned that this is the central question for people concerned about animal welfare. In my daily life, I train myself to think how my actions influence the animals in front of me, as well as animals I may never see. How can I make that anxious cat feel more at ease? How can I prevent that dog from contracting an illness? How can I reduce waste so I don’t pollute the waters for sea life?

I cannot wait to become a veterinarian and make a bigger impact (or in some cases, reduce my impact) on animal welfare!