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Students Abroad: Liz Mehaffey, MSW’12 in South Korea

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Authored by: Lisa Dugan

Student Life


While many students choose to study abroad to experience cultures vastly different than their own, for Liz Mehaffey, MSW ’12, an adoptee from South Korea, the decision was more personal.

“Many South Korean adoptees move back to their birth country to live permanently,” she said. “These individuals often describe experiencing an identity change. Although they initially identified as American, they begin to think of themselves as Korean American. I wanted to study this phenomenon.”

For her research project, designed with Dr. Irene Wong and Dr. Joretha Bourjolly, Mehaffey interviewed approximately 20 adoptees. Their stories provide a fascinating glimpse into how biological culture can shape identity. “One interviewee told me, ‘I felt like a white girl, but when I looked in the mirror I saw that I was not white,’” she recalled.

Mehaffey is working with Bourjolly and Wong to publish a paper about her research. “I would highly recommend more people design their own study abroad,” she encouraged. “It is a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it.”