An aspect of my social identity that is particularly meaningful to me is my Japanese heritage. Although I grew up in the United States, I hold a strong connection to the country of my birth, Japan. However, I didn’t always feel as close as I do today. Prior to middle school, I felt close to no connection to Japan. Whenever given Japanese textbooks to study, I always wondered, “why do I have to do this extra work when everyone here speaks English?” Yet as I grew older, I started to gain more interest in my heritage. I started participating in summer camps in Japan, building relationships with students my age. Even in the United States, I started viewing Japanese television programs and listening to Japanese music. I soon was very connected with my Japanese background and took a gap year to explore my roots further.
My Japanese heritage is particularly important to me because I believe it defines who I am. Although I grew up in the United States, I was raised in a household where the values of Japanese culture were the norm. I feel that as a result, much of the decisions I make are viewed through the unique lens of being bicultural and both Japanese and American. However, I do find myself leaning towards one side of the spectrum (either Japanese or American) depending on the cultural context I am in. When taking my gap year in Japan, I definitely found myself wanting to be “more Japanese” to integrate into the culture before being unique. Since I have come back to the US, I find myself looking to be much more American. Even though this may seem like I do not stick to my identity, I feel like being bicultural is a balance. I want to adapt to my environments to not only make them more comfortable for me but for others that interact with me as well. Being bicultural is not always easy, but I think I have learned to embrace this identity, and feel that it is a unique part of who I am.