(In Part 3, we look at Yasuha Miura, co-host of the “In-Between Club” podcast.)
On a typical Friday night, my family gathers around the dinner table where we have Thai green curry, tonkatsu, and french fries. My younger brothers start sharing a story about school, and my father critically comments on the world news broadcasting from the TV. Soon after that, I began to respond to my father’s feedback, and meanwhile, my mother peacefully enjoys her international mashup meal.
This seemingly chaotic dinner table is a “home” that I grew up in, yet once I step outside, my normal is often perceived as a strange and misfit experience to the norm. Growing up as a mixed Japanese-Thai and living in a cross-cultural environment, I often battled with finding a sense of belonging even though I can speak Japanese and Thai fluently or practice both cultures equally.
The feeling of incompleteness was triggered by how I was easily viewed as an “outsider” from both of my home cultures. I spent my childhood in the Japanese community located in the center of Bangkok, Thailand. On a weekday, I would go to a Japanese school and immerse myself in a so-called monocultural environment, whereas on the weekend, I participated in extra-curricular activities in the Thai community.
As I crossed cultures back and forth, I started to develop confusion and struggled to find a sense of myself. I constantly felt the need to prove to others and myself that I am not lesser than others just because I am a mixed child. However, I slowly grew more appreciative of holding cross-cultural identities when I moved to an international school for middle school and high school. I began to learn about different cultures and made friends who also have cross-cultural backgrounds. This is one of my life-changing moments where I developed my curiosity in the life of individuals growing up cross-culturally and became the root of my passion in international education as a way to promote intercultural understanding and one’s identity.
The feeling of incompleteness was triggered by how I was easily viewed as an ‘outsider’ from both of my home cultures.
My background and past experiences have given me a strong foundation in my passion for academics, and have uncovered further areas I wish to pursue in an undergraduate degree. I majored in Global Studies where I developed my interest in how culture and politics strongly influence each other. I learned about how the development of culture and ideology plays a vital role in globalization and international politics to shape the world order.
During my exchange year at a liberal arts college in the United States, I gained a more personal insight, when I encountered international students and U.S. students who speak up and fight for the recognition of their identity. This became another significant experience that has driven my passion for thinking about how the topic of cross-cultural identities is seen in different systems and societies.
After I graduated from university, I started to work for an educational consulting company to foster international education in my home country, Japan. While this experience allowed me to influence English education among students, I also learned there is a vast number of students just like myself who struggle with their cultural identity and finding a sense of belonging. I gained strong empathy and a sense of mission to help those youths and empowered them. As a result, I decided to start a podcast with my friend to share the story of an individual living cross-culturally.
By sharing each of our personal experiences on identity crisis or talking about how we began to embrace being different, I hope to encourage others to gain a sense of belonging and feeling empowered to be themselves. At the same time, I would like to maximize the impact I can give to the youth by creating a safe space and empowering them. Currently, I am pursuing my master’s degree that will prepare me to attain theoretical and practical knowledge to promote intercultural understanding and global competency through an educational program. I’m hoping that more and more youth can appreciate their cross-cultural heritage and be proud of who they are.