Liz Raleigh

My name is Liz Raleigh, and I am an associate professor of sociology. This is my 12th year at Carleton. My middle name is Yoon Hwa, which is the Korean name given to me at the orphanage. I was born in South Korea and adopted as an infant by White parents. I have an older sister who is White and my parents’ biological child. I also have a younger brother adopted from India. As is typical of transracial and transnational adoptees of my generation, I grew up in a very White town and did not have the opportunity to meet other non-adoptive Asians until going to college.

At the start of my undergraduate experience, I remember being really overwhelmed trying to make friends with fellow Asian American students. I felt like my experience was so different from my peers, most of whom were children of immigrants. I took an introductory Korean class my first term, and it seemed like everyone else in the class had at least some prior exposure to Korean. I consistently failed every quiz and used to cry in class because I felt so out of place. I ended up late dropping since I was on track to failing it anyway. I was so humiliated after this experience, and I avoided getting involved with the Asian American student community. It was only through my academic study that I developed a framework for understanding my story and felt more confident that there was a place for me in the Asian American community. I feel so lucky to have taken an Asian American studies class with a professor who eventually became a mentor to me.

During this time, I decided to write an honors thesis based on the experiences of other Korean adoptees. It was a transformative project, and it also sparked my love of sociological research. As fate would have it, it also gave me the love of my life, and I met my husband Nikos when reaching out to fellow adoptees. I was particularly fascinated by my interviewees’ accounts of going to Korea, and I desperately wanted to travel there. I was fortunate to be awarded a Fulbright, spending a year in Korea interviewing other adoptees about their experiences. Living in Korea was such a gift, and I know that I am incredibly privileged to have this experience, especially since I got to be there with Nikos. Most of it was amazing, but it was also really hard though to feel like an outsider especially when I was yearning for a connection
to Korea.

When I got back to the U.S., life seemed to speed up as it often does. Nikos and I got married, started our respective graduate programs, and had a baby along the way. We moved from Brooklyn, New York, for my job at Carleton 12 years ago. I can truly say that this is a dream job for me, and one of my favorite aspects is getting to know Carleton students. A few years back, I developed a class on Asian American studies which I have taught a few times. It was so rewarding to be able to think through and to discuss the multiple dimensions related to race, ethnicity, and identity. When I was an undergrad, the class I took with my professor gave me the tools to better understand my experience. He also made me feel like I belonged, even though my AAPI experience was so different from my peers. I hope to do that for all of my students at Carleton.