For the capstone project for her art, architecture and design major, Winnie Gu ’19, ’21G decided to draw a comic book sharing her experience as a third-culture kid.

“Third-culture kids” are children who spend part of their formative years in a culture other than their parents’ culture. Their cultural identity is defined by moving between different cultures.

Originally from Shanghai, China, Gu attended high school in Singapore and the United States. She also lived in Japan for a time. She is now a permanent U.S. resident. In her comic, she documents experiences like facing questions about where she’s “really” from; observing differences among life in China, Singapore and the U.S.; and dealing with stereotypes about Asian people, as well as life as an international student at Lehigh. She shares her comics as @thirdculturechinese on Instagram.

Winnie Gu ’19, ’21G, the woman behind @thirdculturechinese.

After finishing the comic book and graduating in 2019, Gu stayed at Lehigh to get her master’s degree in elementary and special education. She also works as a graduate assistant in the Office of International Students and Scholars, where she runs the Conversation Partners program, where international students are paired with native or near-native English speakers to practice language and share cultural exchange.

Or at least she did, until Lehigh moved to remote instruction through the end of the spring semester as part of its response to novel coronavirus. Now she’s taking her grad courses online and sharing her experience on campus in a series of “Quarantine diary” comics on her Instagram account.

“With students not able to return to campus after spring break, I feel distant from community,” Gu says. “A big part of being alive is being part of a community and connecting with other people. This is a way to keep that connection.”

In addition to her Instagram posts, Gu led a discussion panel for students over Zoom called “Stay Social While Social Distancing,” in partnership with the International Center for Academic and Professional English. She wanted to check in with students and see how they’re doing, especially Asian students who may be facing discrimination, such as people calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” In her work with OISS, Gu is working on other ways to help international students stay connected to the Lehigh community, such a sharing their “Day in the Life” videos.