September 11, 2014

Growing up Asian in a white family; one adoptee’s struggle

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Claire Hampton with her mother. Claire was born in Seoul, South Korea and came to the United States when she was four months old.

Photo provided

Claire Hampton with her mother. Claire was born in Seoul, South Korea and came to the United States when she was four months old.

By Earn Saenmuk/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — There was a girl in my Korean class. Well, there were more than one, but this particular one was special. She was very nice, and her Korean was so good that I felt a little intimidated.

I noticed while the teacher was taking attendance that her last name did not sound like an Asian last name. Her name was Claire Hampton, though she told the teacher that she also has a Korean name, Hwaesuk.

I was really confused, but I didn’t have the courage to ask.

One day, while we were just chatting about Thanksgiving break, she told me that she had to make sure to tell her friends, who were visiting her house for the first time, that her parents were white and that she was adopted.

I didn’t know what to say, and Claire, who probably knew how I felt, told me it was ok to talk about this with her. I had never talked to anyone about adoption because I know it can be a sensitive issue. It really was amazing how she seemed completely fine about it.  I had a lot of questions, and she was willing to answer.

The most important thing I learned from Claire was that not everyone is bitter about adoption. Many people grow up in loving families with great parents, but they still want to meet their birth parents. At the same time, some people feel strongly against meeting their birth parents.

I also learned that adoption can impact someone’s life so much that she wants to share her story with the world.

This project is the culmination of University of Illinois students’ work during spring 2014 as part of the multimedia reporting course taught by Professor Charles “Stretch” Ledford. The students were instructed to select a topic of interest and use audio and video to share that story. The resulting multimedia projects give an in-depth look at small segments with the Champaign-Urbana community.