Fitting In Is Not a One-Size-Fits-All

February 23, 2024

On September 4th, 2003, estimated to be one-day old, I was abandoned at a bus station in a large city inside the People’s Republic of China. Due to the strict One Child Policy, there were no traces of my birth parents or ties to any identity except for a small red envelope filled with dirt and seeds. On the front and back of the envelope were illegible Chinese characters which seemed to be quickly scribbled. After an unknown amount of time in the harsh Chinese summer heat, a young woman found me and brought me to the Xinhua Social Welfare Center. There, they called me Xīn Yǎpíng. For the next fifteen months of my life, I lived in an impoverished orphanage. In an area with extreme weather conditions, there was no air conditioning or heat to keep the babies safe and comfortable. Thankfully, I was rescued when I was adopted in December of 2004 by my mom, a single caucasian elementary-school teacher from the United States.

Because of my adoption, my mom always encouraged me to learn more about Chinese cultural traditions and holidays. Upon coming to Cal, I joined the Chinese Student Association: an organization on campus that hosts various events for students to participate in Chinese cultures and meet other students to help make such a big campus feel smaller. However, I never felt like I truly belonged due to my “different” background and lack of knowing Mandarin—despite taking four years of Chinese school in high school and enrolling in Chinese 1A my first semester at Berkeley, which is the introductory elementary Chinese course. After completing my freshman year, I decided I wanted to try and step out of my comfort zone, so I signed up for Fall Formal Sorority recruitment.

After going through Fall Formal Sorority Recruitment, I ended up in my current sorority. Before joining a sorority, I never knew much about what being in one entailed. I figured that maybe I could try it out and find a group that was full of diverse girls that share a common interest for service. It was hard at first because I never felt like I truly fit in with the other girls. I would try my best to attend as many events as possible, show up early to chapter meetings so I could meet more members, etc. What was holding me back from connecting deeper with others was worrying if everyone could see through me and knew that I was “different” from them. It took some time, but I eventually was able to find a great group of friends within it.

Growing up, I always felt that I never fit in with my peers due to my background. I came from a small town in the suburbs of Riverside County where everyone was similar to each other, except for me. When I received my Berkeley acceptance, I was excited to finally get a fresh start and potentially find people that I could relate to at Berkeley. What I truly love about Berkeley is its diverse student population. Every person here is so unique and different that you will always find a piece of you wherever you go. Something that I now wonder and think to myself is, who am I? Although I am still figuring that out myself, I know for sure that I would not be the same person I am now if I were not adopted. I would not have some of the opportunities that were given to me, such as my experiences and amazing memories at Berkeley. Prior to coming here, I always thought that fitting in at college would be like a one-size-fits-all shopping experience, but it is what you make of it.