It was during Economics class in my senior year of high school that my life completely changed. While most people don’t have such an occurrence happen to them in such a dull setting, I somehow did. I was simply browsing the internet, looking at universities and their respective programs. Like any soon-to-be college student, I was picturing how I wanted my life to turn out; what my dreams would be. Particularly, I was looking for universities that offered an International Relations program that had an emphasis on the region I’m from: Kazakhstan.
I came across this one university that offered an International Studies program that had an entire program devoted to Kazakhstan.
As I sat in my chair in shock, I even noticed that they had courses in the very language of my nation and people. I kept searching for more details and information about the program and eventually came across a former professor at the institution. She was listed as a professor of the Kazakh language. The site even provided an email address. Little did I know, meeting this professor would be the beginning of a journey that would lead me to where I am today.
Being an adoptee, there was always bound to be some difficulties in understanding my background.
Growing up, I would go through different stages in my life where I would either accept or reject it. Like any adolescent, I simply wanted to grow up like everybody else. Also, being in the United States, not many people knew where Kazakhstan was - let alone what a Kazakh person was. Adding to the misconceptions, I also grew up in the era that “Borat” was released. With the only depiction of Kazakh people in the media being “Borat,” it was hard to find a hero that would help me embrace my ethnicity and race. Sure, there were a few Asian Americans in the media, but most were stereotypical, not uplifting. I also didn’t have any Kazakhs that I knew outside of the adoptees I would see at occasional reunions for other Kazakh adoptees. However, as we grew apart and went on to live our separate lives, I began feeling more and more isolated.
Growing up without an understanding of who I was as a Kazakh was not easy, even though I was still living with a loving family who embraced my Kazakh roots, and wanted me to do the same. Nevertheless, I became really close with people from families of immigrants. I saw how they would create these communities with each other that embraced who they were. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have anyone but themselves. I saw and envied their happiness and contentment.
Inspired by these people, a fire within me raged to begin accepting myself.
The second I started down that path was the moment that I started loving. I became enthralled with the land that I was now so proud to be from. The longstanding history. The rich culture. The amazingly beautiful people that I eventually realized were always my own even though I had been living apart from them. I began to really become obsessed with the place that I had once suppressed.
Seeing how great Kazakhstan could be and how far it has come truly inspired me to do something with my life, especially considering my particular situation with my background as an adoptee. I was given everything when I had nothing. No matter what I would eventually decide to do with my life, I wanted (and needed) to prove to myself that I deserved the opportunity to be where I was.
Now you may at this point be wondering: How did this all stem from an email that on a website of a university in the middle of the state of Indiana in the United States of America? While she no longer taught at that university, this professor was actually a teacher at an NIS school in Southern Kazakhstan now. I proceeded to email her stating my personal dilemma and desire for reconnection. Within a day she responded with heartfelt support and a shared adoration for our people and nation. When I had revealed that she was the only Kazakh person that I was in communication with, she would go on to introduce me to her students and other colleagues via social media. I would eventually meet Kazakhs from all over the world and from all different walks of life through friends of friends and work colleagues.
My journey led me through different media personalities, professors, and students across the entire world. In the midst of this exhilarating time, I was able to start reconnecting with my motherland and finally start realizing how much reconnection meant to me personally.
It was this culmination of my passion of reconnection and realization of my dream that has led me to where I am today and where I hope to be. While I was not raised in Kazakhstan, it has and always will be with me in my life. It’s a part of my identity that I am proud to call my own. While my life is here in the US, a part of soul has stayed where I was born. In my life, I hope that my passions and dreams are able to come to fruition. I aspire to not only create a good life for myself (one in which I would not have had otherwise) but also to give back in some capacity to my nation (no matter how big or how small it may be).