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Cecilia, Seoyeon, Khwa Pu Thin

Cece Lee's picture

I have always struggled answering questions like "where are you from?" "where's home?" "are you Korean?" "what's your name?" because I don't really have one direct answer for any of these questions. I was born in Seoul, South Korea but my family relocated to Yangon, Myanmar when I was a mere 2 months old. I have lived there for 10 years and spoke Burmese, English, and Korean at home and went to an American international school where I briefly learned Spanish and French (and forgot) and went by 3 different names. I then moved to Hanoi, Vietnam and lived there for about 6 years where I was surrounded by remnants of French and Russian colonialism which lingered in the architechture, language, and food. I also went to an international school where I was friends with sons and daughters of UN diplomats who shared similar nomadic backgrounds as I did and never really knew which country to cheer for during the Olympics or the World Cup. I finally moved back 'home' to Seoul, South Korea to finish my last few years of high school before coming to the U.S for the first time. It was until I came to Bryn Mawr where I had to sit down and think about where I was from and how I identified myself. I was always surrounded by friends who, like me, understood that we have a blend of cultures and we called ourselves 'Third Culture Kids'. We knew to expect to hear a string of different countries someone has lived in when you asked them where they were from. Now that I am removed from that environment, whenever someone asks me where I am from I would answer 'Korea' to avoid the confusion but it feels like a lie; I don't know much about Korean history or culture and I'm not at all that fluent in Korean. So what IS culture? Who are we if we identify with more than one? Is culture something we inherit from our parents or can we develop our own? Can we identify to a certain culture despite never having lived there?