Photo of Liana Westerman alongside the Great Wall of China

Adopted from China as a child, Liana Westerman's study abroad trip to a pediatric burn camp in China was personally and professionally meaningful.

Her Crowning Glory

September 25, 2017

Photo of Liana Westerman alongside the Great Wall of China

For Liana Marie Xiaozhen Westerman '19, it was her signature piece. Something she wore with great joy and pride. But the beautiful crown of vibrant color was more than an adornment. To the music therapy and music performance major from North Canton, Ohio, the crown had monumental significance.

Deeply Personal Experience

"When I was very young, my parents adopted me from China," she began. "I am so grateful to have a loving adoptive family. But being adopted comes with struggles, such as not knowing your biological parents and wondering why you were given up to an orphanage. For international adoptions like mine, there is a sense of not knowing where you came from and having a life story to share.

"In July, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a study abroad trip to China to assist at a five-day pediatric burn camp. I was among a small group of music therapy students who worked with kids living with severe burn injuries," she explained. "We addressed issues like pain management and improving self-esteem through therapy sessions that included singing, dancing, song writing, improvisation and instrument playing."

Benefiting from BW's Caring Community 

"I have always been quite a shy and quiet person," she acknowledged. "But this experience really got me out of my shell. I built a great rapport with each child and witnessed many breakthroughs in their communication skills.

"Each of those kids showed me a whole other dimension of love and kindness that I never could have imagined, and for that I am truly grateful," continued Westerman. "The connections we made, the music that was created and the love we shared are gifts I will cherish forever.

"Likewise, the BW community has had a profound effect on me," she said. "I’ve had so many leadership roles and mentoring experiences through the Conservatory of Music. The faculty and staff have helped me to face my insecurities by giving me courage, love and support. They believed in me even when I didn't.

"The flower crown I wore throughout my stay in China reflects something very personal to me. It represents self-empowerment, something I’m achieving day by day," she noted.