by Dilasha Shrestha
So here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here
never enough for both.
– Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Diaspora Blues
Written by Ijeoma Umebinyuo,”Diaspora Blues” responds to a feeling of displacement that Umebinyuo felt when returning to Nigeria after being away for many years. I have wanted nothing more in my life than a place to belong, and these few words strung together relay my heart’s desires.
Studying in America, 7369 miles away from home, I always knew it would be a different experience, but I never thought it would bring me to a whole new world. The wide spectrum of cultural shocks that I am exposed to on a daily basis has put life into perspective for me, perspectives that have molded me into the person that I am today, perspectives that helped me grow, perspectives that I would like to share.
Studying abroad has made me appreciate the things in life that I had previously taken for granted. Little things that I have never had to think about before have demanded attention, things that I never had to take care of myself have hit me like cold wind on a gloomy winter day, and things that I have avoided all my life have collectively turned inevitable.
Coming from a collectivist culture, there is very little focus on “I,” the individual; experiences are rather defined through “us”. Growing up in Nepal, I was taught that whatever belongs to my parents also belongs to me, and vice versa. Thus, it was absolutely absurd to me when I heard other students saying that they will borrow money from their parents. The individualistic culture that persists in the American society was more than just a cultural shock to me. Even though this distinctive philosophy was beyond my comfort zone, the lessons I reaped through it have been invaluable. From getting my first job, to learning how to budget my expenses; from learning how to take care of myself when I’m sick in the absence of my parents’ comfort to learning how to connect to resources myself, being away from home has pushed me towards self-reliance in every realm of life.
One of the greatest things Clark University has exposed me to is cultural diversity. Given that we view the world through the lens of our past experiences, being surrounded with people from so many different walks of life, such distinct parts of world, and with such diverse experiences has revealed to me new ideas and concepts that I had never thought of before. These differences have allowed me to be critical of the ideas and concepts that I grew up with.
My Social Entrepreneurship class has taught me about a broad spectrum of issues that prevails in the world that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about had I not been in an environment with people from various parts of the world. The ideas and possible solutions that we, as a diverse class of potential social entrepreneurs, discuss are born out of distinctive cultural backgrounds and values. The logical solutions that my Chinese classmate comes up with, coupled with the community building initiatives that my Indian classmate talks so passionately about contributes so greatly towards molding ideas and solutions to issues that persist in different corners of the world. The variances in our upbringing allows us to come up with concepts that are framed with a wide-ranging mindset- the foundation that makes our notions special, the base that makes them superior.
Whether you’ve traveled 7369 miles or 500 kilometers, to change the environment that you live in, and to be able to change the idea of what you call and consider home isn’t easy. Words don’t do justice in describing how you feel when you are so far away from what you have considered home your entire life. It is definitely hard to leave home to be abroad but having lived in America for almost a year has broadened my perceptions and has shaped me into the person that I am today. Thus, going back home is going to be just as hard and frightening as it was leaving it. As the poem says, “So here you are; too foreign for home; too foreign for here; never enough for both.”