Suddenly you smell freshly baked cookies and it reminds you of home, when you’d bake with your family before Christmas, and that makes you miss your mom’s home-cooked meals. Or maybe, you hear someone say a lame dad joke and you remember all the times your dad made you laugh at the exact moment you needed it most. There’s a certain point when you’re away from home long enough that the smallest things, like a scent, can make you homesick.
It happens to all of us, but to some, missing home is more than just missing a house, a family and high school friends. To some, homesickness comes with missing a whole culture and atmosphere.
I remember my first few days at Lehigh, when I quickly had to severely modify my behavior to fit into the American culture. I had to speak English all the time and remember to not kiss people on the cheek when I met them. I had to get used to eating different foods, expressing myself in different ways and most importantly, how I would fit into this new culture. It was then I realized that not a lot of people went through this drastic of a change.
I was definitely not the only one going through huge changes. All of the class of 2017 was going through a transition period and finding their place in their new-found community. We were all getting used to classes, college life, being away from parents and all the multitude of things first-year students struggle with. But, the one big difference between American students and international students is the added fact that international students also transition into a whole new lifestyle.
As human beings, we seek solace in the familiar. We find friends based on common interests and personalities, which is why it’s only logical that people from similar cultures stick together. This is the reason why all of international students seem to only or mostly hang out with other international students based on their country or countries.
It’s the power of the comfort zone. Having people with similar past experiences, languages, cultures and even foods is comforting to us when we are so far away from home. It can almost be said that home is where the language is, because as soon as you find someone else whose native language is the same as yours, it becomes an instant bond. These people are your home away from home — cheesy as it may be.
But, international students aren’t the only ones who stick to a specific set of people. People in Greek life tend to hang out with the members of their specific chapter, others tend to hang out with people from their same race, and the rest, from people in their same interest-based clubs. These sub-sectors of the Lehigh community as a whole create a personal community that students can feel at home in.
Obviously, saying people in a specific group only mingle among that same group is a total stereotype. Not everybody in Greek life only knows and is friends with only people from Greek life. Similarly, not everyone has friends in only one particular group, even though most of his or her connections and interactions come from that particular group. We all stretch a bit out of our comfort zones sometimes. So then why do people make a point of saying that international students only stay within their group?
International students are in a constant state of being out of their comfort zone, which makes them look for the comforting and stick to it much more or they completely step out of it. But then again, aren’t we all the same way? We’re all the same deep down.
I know many people who are involved in a great deal of things and hang out with a all sorts of different people, international students included. What I’m saying is, we don’t all just fit one category. We can fit as many categories and labels as we wish to, if we give ourselves a chance.