After living in two very different countries, I gained a heartfelt appreciation for diversity. Although my family is Korean, I spent most of my early childhood in Bali, a popular tourist island. At my local public school, my peers included an exotic blend of native Balians, Indians, Europeans and other Islanders. With their support, I created my own unique place in a new country.
My early experiences were quite humorous. When I first visited the home of an Indian friend, her grandmother looked curiously at me and asked if I was a "Chainee" (a Chinese person). Not wanting to offend her, I gulped down spicy Indian curry that nearly burned the roof of my mouth. Looking back, our awkward reactions were a simply an expression of our natural curiosity about someone from a different culture. Fortunately, the people of Bali were generous toward my mistakes and eager to help me fit in.
The friendly, laid back atmosphere on the tropical island was a startling contrast to the bustling environment in Seoul and Sydney, where I previously lived. Bali taught me to accept people, regardless of their color or religion.
After ten years away from Korea, I began to lose my familiarity with its language, history and culture. My grandmother smiled patiently as I tried to communicate with her, beating my chest in frustration. Despite my happiness in Bali, my parents encouraged me to preserve my Korean heritage. "Who you are, a Korean, is very, very important." When we moved back to Korea, my father took us to museums and famous palaces that explained the details of Korean history. In each place, we followed my dad as he proudly explained each instrument, painting and piece of pottery.
During one museum trip, I recited out loud the English description of an old...