I was adopted from Cambodia when I was just under a year old and have lived in a small town in Maine for most of my life. Growing up I have always had a conflicting internal conversation with myself questioning my identity. I have always known I am different, so I learned to embrace it and be proud of my heritage.
I have felt my identity shift throughout my life, and especially when I was able to visit Cambodia for the first time in the summer of 2016. It was an emotional visit, filled with answers and many more questions. I ended up finding the village where I was born, and it was truly an emotional experience. I can still feel the same emotions whenever I think about the visit.
When SFS confirmed my spot in the program to study abroad officially, I was elated and humbled by the opportunity to learn about Cambodia in depth. Before coming, I felt that many Cambodians would recognize my heritage right away, yet in many experiences I have had, they often don’t. This was disappointing at first, though I do understand since I am both Vietnamese and Cambodian. Other times, someone may immediately recognize and ask where I am from. This is where I get mixed reactions when I say I am adopted. Some look happy and interested, while others may not be as pleased.
Overall, Cambodians accept me, even though I am different. In Cambodia, I am defined by my American upbringing. Thus, I am still different, even in the country where I was born. While some instances may have been disappointing, I have met many great Khmer people and learned so much about my heritage. I am quite pleased with the trip so far and excited for all the learning opportunities for the rest of the trip.
Photo courtesy of Arden Simone