Conference connects adoptees with Asian heritage, culture


By Clare Budin, Staff Writer

Students from Asian organizations on campus connected with adopted children through cultural cuisine, discussions and fun activities at the Illinois Cultural Adopted Students Program Fall 2018 Conference last month.

The conference, held at the Asian American Cultural Center, was formed 14 years ago with the help of the University’s Taiwanese-American Student Club.

Jenny Lee, sophomore in ACES and member of TASC, explained the goal of the conference was to promote leadership, community, outreach and connect Asian adoptees with their culture.

“Our commitment is to demonstrate community service, leadership and action for the Asian adoptee community at UIUC and in the Urbana-Champaign area,” Lee said. “We raise awareness about the importance of connecting with your cultural heritage, understanding your ethnic identity and developing student leadership.”

At the conference on Dec. 5, about 20 invited adoptees were paired up with a University student and bonded over workshops rooted in different Asian cultures and traditions.

“Some of the workshops organized during our fall conference included Japanese braiding and a Tang Yuan cooking class,” said Bea Alicante, sophomore in LAS and co-director of ICASP. “Additionally, parents were able to have a Q&A session with older adoptee students.”

As the program grew, several other organizations began to participate in the conference such as the Vietnamese Student Association, Philippine Student Association and Asian American Association this year.

Carmel Bumaa, sophomore in Media and Philippine Student Association officer, was invited to co-host a presentation to parents at the conference on adopted kids adjusting and finding their identity while growing up in predominantly white communities.

For Bumaa, the small workshop provided a great opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with parents of adopted kids and for her group to connect with other University organizations.

“It was nice hearing from (the parents) how they look forward to this event to meet up every year and how they genuinely related to our workshop,” Bumaa said. “For PSA, it was a pleasure to be invited to present because it’s also important to externalize with the other Asian organizations on campus.”

Lee said the conference provides a welcoming and educational environment for adopted students and their parents.

“The kids really enjoy doing the activities and some of them have been coming consistently to the conference for years, so they get to connect with each other as well,” Lee said. “Parents have come up to me and said … that they get to ask other parents questions they have, while also learning about different aspects of culture.”

Alicante said the long-running success of the conference showcases perfectly the importance of prosperous cultural centers and organizations on campus.

“Cultural organizations, events and centers on campus provide a supportive community and safe environment that allows students to further explore their cultural identities, as well as other aspects of their identity,” Alicante said. “Since these also mirror the diverse student population of UIUC, they offer important learning experiences and opportunities to engage in cultural appreciation.”

Lee agrees the opportunity to hold events like ICASP in spaces like the Asian American Cultural Center helps students explore their own identities while helping others.

“Having cultural spaces is an amazing privilege we have that not all universities provide,” Lee said. “It’s meaningful to have cross-cultural experiences and awareness.”

Lee said she wanted to send a message to students on campus struggling with their identity that these struggles are completely normal.

Lee said she came to terms with her identity with the resources available on campus and knows other students can too.

“I know a lot of Asian-Americans, including me, have struggled with their identity from the fact that they lived and grew up in America in conjunction with Asian culture from their parents,” Lee said. “The feeling of not completely belonging to one culture is very common.”

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