I write about home and settling in and moving all the time, and at this point I feel like you may be thinking, “why is she so obsessed with talking about these things?” Well… it is because there are so many topics to discuss in this area and because it is so important to setting up and thriving in a new life!
I was reflecting on my experience moving away from home for the first time last year and I was thinking about how it was an adjustment when I first moved here to find and feel connected to my home culture. By “home culture” I just mean my cultural identity, but since I am a TCK and expat, I don’t have just one culture so I’m using the term “home culture” to refer to that mix. I realized that unlike some students who have affinity groups for their culture or ethnicity on campus, there was nothing that really encompassed the whole of my own mixed culture.
In other words, I found it hard to find a feeling of home on campus. On days where I just wanted something familiar or to talk to someone who understood my home culture without me having to explain, it was difficult to find. Over the course of the year I found these “snippets” of my home culture out here and I thought I would share those snippets here. I hope that this post can show you that even if you can’t find a cultural affinity group that sounds directly like your own culture, there are still ways to find that feeling of home at college.
I mean, obviously, you’re never going to find someone exactly like yourself in terms of cultural background, but as you meet people in college (and there are so many people to meet) you will find that parts of your culture match up with parts of other people’s cultures. Find those places of overlap! I know that I have friends who I can talk to about living in Dubai and they get it without explanation needed and I have friends who I can talk to about living in London and they understand that! Understand that as an expat or TCK, you’re probably not going to meet someone with the exact same background as yourself, but you will meet people with similar aspects of their background.
We all love food. Food is comforting. So it doesn’t surprise me that having a familiar meal can instantly make me feel at home. Last year, after months of terrible cafeteria food, going out for a nice Arabic meal with a friend made me feel so much more at home! Finding those snippets of home when you move away don’t have to be as explicit as people or different groups, it can be as simple as a dish!
Sometimes if I’m missing home all I need is to curl up in bed and watch a show that reminds me of home. Sometimes even if I’m not missing home, if I’m watching a particularly British show I feel very comforted and cozy. For example, watching an episode of Downton Abbey always makes me feel at home and this week I watched all of the Bridget Jones’ which was so nice! Maybe watching a show to make you feel connected to your home culture sounds silly, but I’m serious, it works!
4. Sharing Traditions
Even if your best friends at college don’t understand the cultural traditions you grew up with, you can definitely show them! It can be as big as taking them to a cultural celebration or event, or it can be something small too. Over the summer I made my friends traditional chai, like we would make it at home, and it was really nice to share this part of my culture with them!
5. Cultural Groups at the Right Time
As a TCK there is no cultural group that I feel as though I fully belong in, however, that doesn’t mean I can’t be a part of all the groups I feel as though I sort of belong in. You can mix and match what you’re involved with! I remember during the month of Ramadan, where I found that I was really missing being around people who understood this part of my religion and culture, I went to a lot more events at the Muslim Student Association. There’s no rules to say you can only be a part of one group or that you have to be a part of everything, so mix and match where it feels right!
These are all ways that I think you can find that little snippet of something familiar and something that feels like your home culture on your college campus. However, remember that college is a formative experience! You go in as one person, experience lots of things, and come out as a different person because of those experiences. Part of your culture will change and adapt based on where you attend college, and that’s still something I’m trying to navigate myself. Over the course of college I think you pick up traditions and become parts of groups that become an integral part of your new “college culture.” You don’t really notice it as you’re going along day-to-day, however, I know that when I went home for the first time after being away at college, there were groups and traditions that I missed from my life out here.
That’s all to say that there are many places to find that snippet of your home culture away from home and hold onto it, but also be open to gradual change!
I hope this post helped those of you who moved away from home for the first time and are looking for those familiar connections.
See you next week,