Back in the 9th grade, one of my good friends gifted me a T-shirt. It was a rather cheap-looking brown shirt with a faded picture of a Twinkie on it — and I absolutely loved it. Why did I have so much affection for a Hostess product, much less for a T-shirt advertising one?

Yellow on the outside, white on the inside, “Twinkie” was a term my friends used to describe me, a “whitewashed” Asian-American. Some might be inclined to label the term offensive, but during my freshman year of high school it was one I desperately tried to embody.

I don’t want to delve into the psychology behind this desire right now. There are dozens of reasons why an impressionable high schooler might want to run away from his foreign roots. But regardless of why it happened, it happened, and it resulted in me distancing myself from my Asian friends. I lost what little grasp I had on the Korean language and severed my connection with whatever roots tied me back to Korea, or the continent of Asia as a whole.

The thing is, unlike the other awkward stages of adolescent development in my life — where the worst parts now only exist in the depths of Myspace or my mid-2000s playlist — this particular phase had lasting repercussions. By the time I had matured enough to realize the value of my cultural heritage, I had effectively disbarred myself from it.

But this winter, I visited Korea with some Yale friends. While there, I tried to talk to my grandfather — the man who literally came to the U.S. for years to raise me — and realized that I simply couldn’t. I realized that there had formed an impassable gulf between us since I rejected my Korean identity. I realized that all the knowledge I could have gleaned from him had been lost on the other side of that divide which grows larger every day.

At that moment, I wondered, was it too late? Had my high-school years so displaced me from my own culture that I could no longer bridge this tremendous schism? Had my previous shame at my Korean heritage sentenced me to this rift, dividing me even from the people who raised me?

What could I do about this now?

It was then that I realized that there was an answer waiting for me back at Yale.

When I first got to campus, I didn’t think much of its cultural resources. I had been on the cultural houses tour, so I knew that the Asian American Cultural Center existed. I knew there was a Korean-American student organization and I knew there were Korean language classes from L1 to L5.

For the first half of Yale, I abided by my high school M.O. and ignored these opportunities in favor of other alternatives. I took Italian instead of Korean, went to the Afro-American House more than the AACC and didn’t even bother to go to cultural events for the food.

Yet, as I’ve come to realize the value in rediscovery, the value in the full acceptance of who I am both as the son of Koreans and a native of Indiana, I’ve come to see these resources as something to aid me in the process.

The diversity of Yale ensures that anyone can reconnect to roots severed in the past if they so choose. It ensures that you have the resources to rebuild bridges burnt — that you can work to cross any divide, but especially those that you yourself have made.

The level of resources and diversity at this school is something that may never be around again. Second chances are a rare thing in this life. But it’s even rarer that we get a second chance to reconnect with our roots in a place like Yale. It would be a shame to not take advantage of it.

Leo Kim is a junior in Trumbull College. His column usually runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at leo.kim@yale.edu .