Building A Home Away From Home

It is now halfway through the semester and I can finally say I am settling in. As an international student, I spent my first month trying to figure out how to balance all the aspects of my life with the added extra of the intensity of college classes–something I am not used to.

Now, I have finally started to travel a little around the state, from L.A to San Francisco. It’s wonderful to think that merely a few months ago, I could only dream to call California home. While it was difficult to adjust to life at the Claremont Colleges, I am glad to say that it’s finally the place I can call “home”––even if it is only for a little while.

Last week, I sat down with my friend Shringi Vikram SC '20, an international student from India, with the intention of discovering how she was adjusting to life here. Does she also think of Claremont as home? Was her transition hard? Somehow we found ourselves talking about what being an international student entails. Shringi comes from a liberal background back home, so for her the transition wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. “In the end, people are the same around the world,” she told me. However, we both agreed that coming to a different country and experiencing a new culture is always difficult.

“The thing about being an international student is that you have to adjust to the fact that life for domestic students is going to be very different from yours,” Shringi said. “They’re going to have more things, be able to travel more and have visitors over the weekend. Or they go home. But in your case, you have to come to terms with not being home every weekend, not seeing your family that often and not having your friends from back home with you regularly.”

I completely sympathized with what she was saying. For me, my family isn’t just a ride car away.

“Was it hard for you? Do you miss home?” I asked.

“It was very hard at the beginning, but now it has become better,” she told me.

“How do you deal with that? One of the things that helps in my case is the fact that I am only here for a year, so I keep telling myself that. But you’re here for four years! Doesn’t that scare you?” I asked.

“I must admit the prospect of spending four years here used to scare me a lot, but now it’s different,” Shringi said. “I feel like I won’t have enough time to do everything! However, even though it’s better now, there are times when it’s still quite bad. If suddenly things go wrong, I start to miss home terribly. The fact that I can’t go home every weekend really gets to me then,” she admitted.

I decided to talk to Shringi about the concept of integration, something which I try to do in every place I go. Was she trying to integrate? Had it been easy for her?

“I do try to, but sometimes it’s hard. I feel like I have to represent my home country a lot of the times. If I say I’m from India, people have expectations, and I have to be able to be able to talk about India in a positive yet critical way––in the end of the day it has problems just like every other country. But that has also affected the way I form friendships now. A lot of my friends are from India, but I didn’t intentionally search for that. It’s just nice to be able to talk to someone about my home country, someone that will understand what I’m going through, and won’t expect me to act a certain way or anything,” she said.

After talking to Shringi, I felt that I understood exactly where she was coming from. Even though I love California and have made great friends here, there are still times where I find myself missing my actual home. Moments when I say “I wish I could go back,” and moments when I can’t wait to Skype with my family because I miss them so much. It was nice to find out I am not alone in that.

With special thanks to my friend Shringi Vikram.

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