Building Identity Being Raised in a Different Culture
Knowing who you are and where you belong has been a human search throughout history. I exist in two worlds, and I don’t feel at home in either. I am “Angelica” in one universe and “Angélica” in the other. “Angélica” refers to a girl who used to live in Washington Heights with her family. A brilliant little girl who spent her time with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and spoke more Spanish than English. “Angélica” felt herself comfortable being close to the warmth of the family, their support, and ethnic identity. Living with her parents, and going to school with kids of different nationalities, all of that felt wonderful, and, most importantly, “Angélica” felt inclusive.
After a sudden move to Nanuet, “Angelica” appeared, a girl that lived in a predominantly white neighborhood and felt herself a stranger there. As a kid, it was hard since everything and everyone became different. Of course, “Angelica” managed to get friends in her new school, nevertheless, she felt lost sometimes. Missing her old environment, friends, and acquaintances, adapting to a new life became an ordeal. The language barrier also became an issue since she started the new school in the 2nd grade and spoke mainly Spanish rather than English.
However, she managed to find pleasant moments when a lot of things did not work out. Some of these were lessons, such as Spanish, Chorus, and Human Psychology. Specifically, Chorus lessons became their way of expressing herself since singing is a part of her identity, and it was a way for her to express her creative side. After-school activities such as swimming have become equally important. Swimming provided a method for her to keep active while also teaching her leadership skills, as she is the team’s captain rather than an outsider.
“Angélica” had felt like an alien in the overwhelmingly white neighborhood. However, she realized how she could overcome the struggles that fell on her and, at the same time, not pursue simply blending into the different culture. “Angélica” was able to adapt to the fact that she is different by being “Angelica,” going through struggles that no one of her white friends will understand. She was constantly battling her ethnicity, how it distinguishes her, and how difficult it is for her to “blend in,” but that is what made her stronger. Finding inspirations in different things, such as swimming lessons and singing, she managed to blend parts of her “Angélican” identity and things she became acquainted with as “Angelica.”
There are significant distinctions between “Angelica” and “Angélica,” yet they are both the same. They each have distinct personalities that combine to make Angelica who she is. She is someone who, despite her difficulties, never gave up and finally viewed these two separate identities as a strength. A willingness to put up more effort in life, whether at school or in personal, internal conflicts. It has taught her to be proud of her cultural heritage, regardless of whether it seems different from friends and classmates. The realization that both “Angelica” and “Angélica” make me who I have marked the most significant achievement in my life.
Being raised in a cross-cultural environment also allows one to benefit from both (or more) cultural experiences and get to know different social values. It imposes its imprint on development, but at the same time, brings a unique experience (Cohen & Kassan, 2018). Being in between two cultures can help to shape independence from prejudice and become successful, but at the same time, the process of growing brings more struggles. Thus, the building of the identity being raised in a different culture can be challenging, as the obstacles and struggles are greater. However, overcoming it can result in the success of being an independent cross-cultural individual. Being attached to the family and national culture, but being acquainted with the culture where growing up took place, leads to the acquisition of the best qualities of both (or more) cultures and social norms.
Cohen, J. A., & Kassan, A. (2018). Being in-between: A model of cultural identity negotiation for emerging adult immigrants. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 65(2).