Tell us a little bit about your background and your family.
I’m adopted, so I’m from China and I came here when I was about 1 years old. My sister is 2 years older than me and she’s from Korea and she’s also adopted. My parents are from New York and they’re Italian but born in New York. I have a super close relationship with my parents, especially my mom. We call each other every day and I tell her everything that’s going on in my life so it’s really great. She told me when I first started at Georgetown, like, “Oh Kaylee I believe in miracles.” And I was like okay, because we’re not really religious people. But she said she believes in miracles because of all the babies she could have gotten assigned to she got me and I kind of feel the same- of all the couples looking to adopt I got them, and I just feel very lucky.
What was the atmosphere of your hometown/neighborhood like? How is your community back home different from the community you found here?
Totally, totally different. It’s weird to be the minority here because in my high school (in NYC) it was about 60-65% Asian and like, 20% white. But here it’s like 60-65% white so it’s completely flipped, you know, and it’s just very different. Back home all my friends were Chinese and I always had Asian friends growing up. I feel like I’m a little bit more comfortable with Asian people and I think that’s just because of my temperament, that’s just what I’m used to. These are the people who I’ve hung out with like all my life.
Do you ever feel like you have to balance two identities?
Being adopted is something I’ve always taken pride in. On one hand I love being part of an Italian family, I love Italian food and culture, I love being the one who’s tagged in pasta memes by my friends. On the other hand I also really love Chinese culture. My friend group has always been predominantly Chinese, I’ve been studying the language for 5 years now, and I feel like I click really well with Chinese people. I wouldn’t really say I’ve had to balance the two, because that could kind of sound like the two clash, but rather I’ve always embraced both and accepted that together they’re what I identify as. Sometimes I do feel a little in between, in that my family isn’t super traditional Italian, so it’s not like I can speak Italian (besides my two-day streak of duolingo), or really know a ton about its traditions and such, and I’m also not super Chinese, I don’t know a lot of Chinese culture and I can’t always relate to my Chinese friends about certain things. But I still love both cultures, and I’m still trying to understand both, but I’m pretty happy with what I have so far.
How has your experience shaped your identity in the AAPI community?
I usually didn’t face any racism before for being Asian. Like, sometimes my friends would talk about experiencing racism but I never did, especially because my parents are white and I forget sometimes, like, I don’t look like these people. But coming here without them, I do feel a little more like, oh yeah, I am Chinese. The other day I was sitting in Leos and there was a guy sitting near me and he was white. And a lady came to ask this random survey question and she looked at me and then she looked at the guy and she asked the white guy instead. And I was just like- I mean it probably doesn’t really mean anything but I just kind of felt a little like, wait why didn’t she ask me? Does she think I don’t speak English or something? A lot of my friends have told me about how people tell them, “Oh my god you’re Chinese, your English is so good!” and are surprised. And they’re just like, “I’m actually born here and I’m fluent in English, my English is better than my Chinese.” So yea, I don’t have a major experience that shaped me being Chinese but just coming here has made me remember I’m Chinese, I’m not white.