Below is a guest post from an incredible young woman, Isabel Campbell. She is currently pursuing her degree in apparel studies at University of Arkansas. Isabel's dream is to open a boutique in L.A. that combines the fun of fashion and her love of delicious desserts. Who wouldn't want to shop and enjoy sweets at the same time!
“So, what are you?”
This is the question I have been asked the most since I have started my freshman year of college at the University of Arkansas. At first, I was startled to hear those 4 words coming out of people’s mouths. I guess I forgot that I am beginning a whole new chapter in my life and meeting people that don’t know my story.
I was adopted from an orphanage in Astrakhan, Russia when I was about two and half years old by a new family consisting of loving parents and two older brothers. My family and I celebrate the day I was adopted every year, which we lovingly call Gotcha Day. On that day, my parents always retell the crazy process they had to go through to get their baby girl. Early on, I never asked many questions about my birth mom and the place I was from. As I got older it became a big question because I tend to look more Asian, rather than the “typical” Russian. This played a confusing role in my life.
When high school came around, I finally asked more in depth questions about my adoption. The information I was told was hard to grasp. My birth mom was only 16 when she had me and Astrakhan wasn’t, and still isn’t, safe for anyone to really live in. Throughout my childhood, I have always hoped to go back my birthplace, sometime in my life, to learn more about where I came from. I felt like it would help me get more answers.
My dream finally became a reality this past summer. As a graduation present, my family and I traveled to Russia. When I arrived in Astrakhan, I realized my parents were right about it being a run down city. The houses were either vacant or close to collapsing and the streets were full of gypsies and beat up taxi vans. I was definitely worried about my safety.
The most eye-opening experience during the two days we stayed in Astrakhan was going to the orphanage where I was adopted. I was able to meet the woman in charge of the orphanage and some of the staff members. Two of the ladies remembered me once we showed them my baby pictures. I couldn’t believe I was standing in the building where I used to live!
The hardest part during the visit was trying to find the truth about my birth mom because we had a lack of information. I only know my real Russian name, Gianna, but the last name on my birth certificate was fake. I was upset, but at the same time, there probably was a reason why my birth mom didn’t use my real last name.
What helped me the most during this trip was learning that Astrakhan has 60 different ethnicities. My big question “What am I?” was finally answered. I was told I am Kazakhstan- the people have an Asian look but with a darker complexion. Overall, going on the trip was a weight off my shoulders! I felt empowered by the new information about myself and I loved being able share my experience with my close friends and family.
I would say college has definitely been difficult for me because I’m not used to all of the Asian comments and having to re-tell my story to new people I meet. Even though it’s been confusing at times, I would never want to change how my first two years of my life began. I’ve learned to embrace who I am as a person and I'm happy I'm different.
Be sure to check out Isabel's awesome fashion blog: Just a Taste of Fashion
I hope you enjoyed her story. I think it is a very relevant topic whether you are adopted or not. Many young women struggle with their identity, at one point or another in their lives. I would love to hear from you in the comments below! How did Isabel's story resonate with you? What has helped you to define who you are as a person?