I have a Chinese family background and I was born in China. When I was still an infant I moved to Japan, then I started preschool in the United States but then moved back to Japan after living there for 3 years. I basically grew up in Japan and YIS was my school since ELC.
I grew up in an international environment, which I am really thankful for. But sometimes I have mixed feelings. There are times where I feel like I don’t belong, I can’t find a stable voice in any culture. What I mean by this is that I feel as if I can’t consider myself part of one specific country. This is mainly related to cultural identity. For instance, when I visit China, people introduce me “She came from Japan” or “She’s Japanese” but really I am Chinese!!! I grew up in Japan and my home is in Japan but I am not Japanese so people in Japan consider me as a foreigner. I grew up with a western style education and the language I use the most is English, but obviously, I am Asian.
Answering the question “where are you from?” ––– can I consider Japan my home? The concept of “home” is such a struggle for me. I feel like I fit nowhere but everywhere. Answering “I am Chinese” or “I am from Japan” is all very awkward. I panic whenever I am asked this kind of questions and every time I answer, my answer always ends up being a long explanation ––– I am Chinese but was only born in China, I grew up in Japan, but I speak English…..
I don’t remember much of my experience living in America because I was too small, but I do remember that I could not understand or speak a single English word when I first got there. This is where I first started to learn English and interact with different cultures. Since then, my life became international, every day I am interacting with people from all different cultures. Perhaps this is also what made me be able to adapt to new surroundings quickly.
Language struggle ––– I can speak English and Chinese fluently and Japanese at a conversational level but for me, none of these languages are strong enough to compare to those who only speak one of these languages. Because I speak three languages I know that there are phrases and words that can only be expressed in each specific language. A lot of the time, I end up mixing languages together without noticing. Sometimes I translate phrases from one language to another language but ends up not making sense to the person I am talking to. At school, there are times where I don’t understand English jokes and idioms. I can speak English but I don’t have the family background and haven’t lived there long enough so there are a lot of things in the English language that I don’t understand or never heard of.
Despite all my struggles, this experience, however, shaped me to become an international-minded person. I am able to make decisions and also think from different perspectives and view situations not only from the cultural values of one culture and I am grateful for this.