Where are you from?

Expat Life, Life

January 25, 2020

On the first day of school every year, we always go around the room and you have to introduce yourself with your name, where you’re from, and a fun fact about yourself. I dread this activity. Apart from never knowing what to say for the fun fact part, I never know where to say I’m from. If you asked me what my passport said, I would say the UK – although I haven’t lived there for the past five years. If you ask me where I live currently, it would be Dubai – although I don’t know how long I’ll live here for. If we were asking in terms of my school, I would be American – although every time I visit America it’s on a tourist visa. If it was where my parents were born, it would be Tanzania – although I’ve never lived there. If you were asking me about my ancestry, I would be a mix of Middle Eastern, Indian, and African. If you were asking me where I see myself in the future, I would not even know what to say… This question is so complicated to me – and any other expat – that it’s impossible to fit into a quick sentence. So how do we know where we are really from?

I didn’t realize how complicated this concept of home really was until I became an expat; I’m a high school senior and I’ll be packing up to move to college in another continent next year, so I’ll be adding yet another fold in the complex mix of places I call home. On my first day of college next year, what will I say when people ask me, “so where are you from?”

The answer is that home is a work in progress. We tend to focus on labeling a piece of land or a house as a home, and we fail in seeing that home is really an ever-changing concept. Depending on the day, the time of year, the emotions you are feeling – our home can change. Home is not one concrete place, instead, it’s a stream, ebbing, flowing, and pulsating through all the spaces our minds wander through.

Perhaps, just like me, you feel more at home among the international community of expats, nomads, and travelers than you ever do in one specific place. I know that when I’m around international students, even if they are from completely different parts of the world, I feel as though I can connect with them on a different level because they understand the perspective and the experiences that you get from being this unique blend.

So next time you ask yourself where am I from? Where is home? Where do I fit in? Remember patiently that home is a concept that is ever-changing and ever-evolving.

What are your opinions on this concept? Let’s open the discussions in the comments!

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