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If I Could Tell You Just One Thing: International Student Edition

April 9, 2019

I am 7,305 miles away from home.

The gravity of the situation didn’t occur to me until squat in the middle of the fall semester of my freshman year when I fell ill for the first time and realized that my parents were not around to take care of me anymore. Sure, I had felt it before—when I was in a room full of people who all spoke different languages but didn’t understand a word of Hindi or when I bought my first mini bottle of Tabasco to carry with me—but that day it hit me square in the face.

Moving so far from home for better education and more holistic personality development was a choice that I made very early in life. As a high school senior who aspired to study economics, I wholeheartedly believed that it was imperative that I get the chance to experience a widely different culture as intimately as possible. The U was the answer to all my prayers. It gave me everything that I could have hoped for—a fantastic economics program, extremely diverse student body, the choice to participate in an array of incredible clubs and societies, and of course the chance to experience snow for the first time (although, in hindsight, I believe I could have settled for a little less snow!). So really, coming to the U was an easy decision, and I am glad that I made it.

Over the span of the last two years, I have found my own tribe here. A set of people who I can turn to for advice, support, and very often entertainment. Homesickness is not uncommon for most international students, some of whom don’t get a chance to go back home for years. In moments like these, cultural groups help us out. I cannot put into words the sense of calm and belonging that washes over me when I get a chance to go to events organized by organizations such as Bharat or the Indian Student Association. That feeling of dancing to familiar songs that I grew up listening to, with people who understand what it’s like to not have had the chance to eat authentic Indian food in a while. It feels like coming home.

The importance of cultural groups is unparalleled. Not only do they provide a safe place for students who identify with a different cultural identity, but they also give other students a chance to taste a different culture and appreciate the diverse world we live in. It is heart-warming to see our fellow students who have had little or no experience of Indian culture wear traditional, ethnic outfits and groove to Bollywood music! Festivals are particularly fun to celebrate. It feels good to see that some things in life transcend distance and hold the same charm no matter what part of the world you are in.

So if I could tell all international students just one thing it would be to go to the events organized by these cultural groups because sometimes you don’t know what you are missing until you experience it again after a long time!