Around 1974/1975 my grandmother met an American Air force man in her small village in North Eastern Thailand. Soon enough, she married this man and was moving her two children to America. This included my father. Now, my mother on the other hand has European roots and is part Native American. This resulted in me growing up in a home with a mixture of cultures with no strong emphasis on one specific culture. I am happy with how I’ve been raised, but I always held a sense of longing to learn and understand more about each part of my heritage.
The summer of 2017, I studied abroad in Thailand for 5 weeks. I learned there are others like me who decide to study abroad in a country where their family is from, we are called “Heritage Seekers.” I was nervous to go because not only did I not grow up in Thai culture but I am multiracial so I don’t necessarily look Thai. Thus, I was nervous of being possibly rejected.
The second thing it lead to was a feeling I anticipated: embarrassment. This embarrassment spurred from not being able to speak Thai. With learning that to some I did look Thai, it would result in them speaking to me in Thai. I couldn’t help in those moments but blush and quietly say in English, “I don’t speak, I don’t understand.” Of course the person would kindly switch to English, but not without a flash of surprise that how I looked didn’t match who they thought I was. At times, to be multiracial feels like I do not fully fit in with any group. This is why I decided to study abroad in the first place, to gain more of idea of my identity and history.
With all of this, I really appreciated that I had chosen to be a student as my first experience when visiting a home country of mine. Being a student allowed me to integrate more so into the country. With my program we had our home base in Chiang Mai, Thailand but also traveled to other areas in Thailand. One of my courses was on Thai culture as a whole. This allowed for classes such as cooking lessons and Thai language classes. The language class gave the basics, enough to be able to order a meal, have a simple conversation, and bargain at a market. We also had the opportunity to stay with a host family for a weekend, and having those language classes helped immensely.
I learned a lot on this trip, some things that I can actualize into words and some things that aren’t as easy to. This trip gave me a connection to a place that I think I could call home in the future, but it also gave me a appreciation of my own home in America. I thought this trip would strengthen only one part of my identity and who I am but it ended up strengthening my appreciation of all of who I am.