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Penn State Student Sparks Conversations With Asian Adoptees Through Podcasting

Transitioning into college life can be tough for a lot of folks, especially at a school as big as Penn State. A new environment and plenty of unfamiliar faces can make those first few months away from home pretty challenging.

For Grace Tomlinson, a Penn State junior studying telecommunications and international relations, this transition was especially difficult.

Tomlinson was adopted from China when she was a baby and raised in a predominantly white area. Growing up, she didn’t see herself as white but never fully identified with her Asian culture, either. Once she arrived at Penn State, Tomlinson began to struggle with her Chinese-American identity and how she was perceived by her new classmates.

“It was difficult for me being someone who always saw themself as somewhere in-between,” Tomlinson said. “Then, being introduced to a new environment where other people didn’t see me the same way.”

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of anti-Asian violence in the United States, Tomlinson didn’t know what to do or how to feel.

“I am Chinese, and people see me as Chinese, but it’s not something that I’ve fully connected with,” Tomlinson said. “I didn’t know if I was allowed to speak up about anti-Asian violence when I had never personally experienced it.”

With this turmoil as the catalyst, Tomlinson turned to podcasting to gain insight about other adoptees and their own struggles with identity. In July, the first episode of Made In China(ish) premiered.

At first, the goal for Made In China(ish) was to talk to other Asian adoptees about their transitions into college life. Since the show’s launch, the podcast has shifted to broader conversations about adoption and identity as a whole.

Tomlinson joined a Facebook group of other Asian adoptees where she was introduced to a community of people with ideas and experiences both similar and starkly different from her own. Through this group, Tomlinson began to connect with people and bring them onto the podcast to share their own stories.

Although the podcast has been a great experience so far, Tomlinson said the biggest struggle she faced was showing it to her friends and family.

“It was never something that I expressed to them, my struggle with my Asian-American identity,” Tomlinson said. “My main concern was telling them what I had been thinking the whole time. But once I introduced it to them, I got a lot of support.”

Starting a podcast can be tough and vulnerable. But Tomlinson said all it takes is a bit of courage.

“Just go for it,” Tomlinson said. “If you’re passionate about it, I’m sure there will be somebody out there who wants to listen.”

You can follow Made In China(ish) on Instagram to stay up to date with the show. New episodes can be found here.

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About the Author

Grace Cunningham

Grace is a junior advertising major and one of Onward State’s social media editors. She is also a co-host of our podcast, Podward State. Grace hails from Chatham, New Jersey—no, she doesn’t know Snooki, and yes, she will fight you if you tell her that Pennsylvania bagels are good. Grace loves buffalo chicken, the Yankees, and watching Cake Boss. Follow her on Twitter @gecunningham7 or email her at [email protected] if you can get her an internship.

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