Sanjana, with her grandfather
“I was born in Gwangju, South Korea, to a single mother. After living in foster care, I was adopted through Holt International Children’s Services in February 2001 by the people I am proud to call my mom and dad. Adopted at almost four-months-old, I have no memory of Korea, yet I always found myself in this predicament around my identity. I never saw myself for my race or gave a second thought to my family, but growing up, I felt embarrassed when explaining to people why I look different than my Caucasian parents and brothers. What changed my perspective was attending a summer camp for Korean adoptees. Growing up with this support circle helped me warm up to my culture, and I had the opportunity to visit my birthland with other adoptees in 2013 and 2018. Now a junior at the University of Delaware, I still find myself thinking about my adoptee friends. Besides my family, my adoptee friends were some of the first people who brought me acceptance and belonging.
My family always acknowledged my feelings, sharing what they knew about my past and encouraging me to connect with my culture. Naturally, it hurt watching kids slant their eyes in elementary school, but I faced my lowest of lows in high school. Like many teenagers, I wanted nothing more than to fit in —nearly impossible as a transracial adoptee, who neither looks like her family nor fits in with her Asian peers. The last day of high school felt like a weight being lifted off my chest. Fortunately, I found a tunnel of light once I entered college. A fresh start, I felt free to be myself. Studying fashion, I wake up excited thinking about how I can help push the industry forward. Today, I still struggle with shedding my insecurities. Reflecting on my adoptee and college friends, I remember that the right people can make all the difference.
I cannot see myself initiating a birth search in the foreseeable future, but I wish for my birth mother to know that I am forever grateful and wish her a lifetime of wellness and peace. No actions can equate to her sacrifice.” (New Jersey, USA)
Sarah is currently studying at the University of Delaware, where she hopes to bring about change in the space of fashion. Keep up with her on Instagram @sarcarlsonn.