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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

I have the privilege to say that I’ve been to China twice in my life. I must admit the first time was during my own birth, but I still like to count it. The second time, however, was a lot more memorable (literally and figuratively). I was 10-years-old, and I went to China for two weeks as part of an adoptee cultural trip. We traveled around different provinces and went to every tourist destination you could think of until we ended up in my hometown, a more rural town in Hunan, China. 

Showcasing my dumpling-making skills at a Chinese cooking class

That trip was probably the coolest thing I’ve done in my life thus far, but at the same time, it’s always felt a little bittersweet to me. I went on the trip when I was too young to fully comprehend China’s culture and style of living and was more focused on my friends. Along with that, it was hard to see a culture and lifestyle that I could have potentially lived in had I not been adopted.

Growing up as a Chinese adoptee in a predominantly white community was difficult for me. I had a supportive family and friend network, but I was never introduced to any Chinese culture and felt incredibly Americanized. When I finally met friends and other people who were involved and attached with their Asian cultures, I felt left out and afraid that I would be judged for not knowing anything about my own Chinese culture. I was stuck between two sides and felt unincluded in both.

Because of this confusion at an early age, I was never able to create an identity for myself or find a way to accurately define my past. This uncertainty has followed me through childhood and high school, and it still is currently plaguing me now. I thought that going into college would open my eyes up to new Asian cultures since the population was much larger here than in my hometown, but now it felt overwhelming. 

Everyone had their identities all figured out and were able to make connections off of that, and I never knew how to add myself to that conversation. I didn’t want to intrude as an outsider who never grew up ‘Asian’ and stayed with people that I was comfortable with, even if it meant surrounding myself with a majority of white people.

This realization was especially frustrating to me. I finally had all the resources I needed to go out and explore a different part of myself that I’ve always wanted to, but I feared judgment and insecurity. I’ve had so many experiences where I’ve felt inferior to other people, whether because of my own mental space or racial remarks, and the last thing I want to do is put myself into a situation where that could potentially happen again. 

As a result, I feel lost in ‘culture limbo,’ and I honestly haven’t found a solution to it yet.

My sister and I holding a panda in Chengdu, China

I’m not writing all of this so you feel bad for me or bring this up in conversation next time you see me in person (which I heavily prefer you didn’t, haha). Instead, I feel this is important to write and share because it shares a perspective that I know a lot of adoptees feel but don’t know how to formally communicate. Even through the struggle, there are a few things I’ve come to terms with throughout my childhood and high school.

First, I am Chinese, and there’s no way around that. There have been many times where I haven’t wanted to be the race that I am, and it’s taken time and years of self-acceptance to appreciate where I’ve come from and its culture, even though I’m not directly a part of it. 

Next, my feelings and emotions are validated. I rarely even talked about my struggles of being adopted because I felt that no one would understand, and in a way they don’t. However, I let myself think that no one cared and some of the mental hardships I’ve had to go through alone, and that’s where I was wrong. I’ve had the more supportive and loving people in my life, and it’s been up to me to open up to them.

Lastly, I don’t have to ‘try’ and create my identity. I was always trying so hard to figure out what people wanted me to act like or what I should do to be more appealing, but that just negatively changed my personality. The interaction with teachers, laughter with friends, cries with my mom, and other little things have defined who I am more than anything. I know that I am loved wherever I go, which is what matters.

Anna Bedell

CU Boulder '25

Anna Bedell is the social media director at the Her Campus, CU Boulder chapter. She writes content mainly on entertainment and culture, along with personal essays and experiences. A junior at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Anna is majoring in business administration with an emphasis in marketing and a minor in journalism. She’s recently studied abroad at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy for the fall semester. An involved student in the business school, Anna writes for the school’s marketing department, is a representative for the Leeds Student Government, and works as a Leeds Student Ambassador. Outside of school, you’ll find Anna rock climbing, watching movies, writing, or traveling around. She’s sure to constantly update her Spotify profile and will never miss an opportunity to talk about her cat, Biscuit.