Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

shivani1

Welcome! Witaj! Enkua Dena Metachu! Mauya! Swagat Hai! Bienvenido! Laskavo Prosymo! And more warm greetings from new faces and cultures. A year ago when I first came to the United States, just like many of my fellow International students, there was a lot to process. It took a while to let this new culture and atmosphere sink in, but eventually we all got along. It’s crazy how unfamiliar faces become family, how strangers become support systems, how the discomfort of feeling out of place comes together to form a place of its own, and how International students become the ‘International squad’ in a matter of just a couple days.

I remember the first few days during orientation with students from Colombia, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Poland, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, and many other countries cramped up in a single room. The Director of International Programs – Alison Champeaux guided us through the basics and realities of living in a completely alien country (at least for most of us) and making the best out of it. I still remember how a year ago, there was uncertainty lingering in the back of our minds when all of us were trying to befriend and start a conversation with each other. Trying to figure out what was appropriate and what was bothersome, to not hurt anyone’s feelings but also try to woo them. It was all brand new. How we involuntarily hung out, planned things, took classes together and helped out each other. And within no time, between shady puns and lame jokes…a family emerged.

Today, when I sit with my roommates Yabi (Ethiopia), Basia (Poland), and Laura (Colombia) to look back and think about those times, a nostalgic smirk appears on all of our faces. How instantly our individual discomfort was creating a sense of comfort for us collectively, how our issues and queries were closely related and most of them were even similar. We all came in with distinct schedules, meal times, gestures, and understanding of relationships. For instance, back home for most of us, a professor-student relationship is extremely formal and doesn’t normally extend outside the classroom. One could hardly built a friendly and more than just an innate classroom connection with the professor. But here, in the USA, you can talk quite openly to your teachers and in addition to that you can (sometimes are even expected to) be on first name basis with most of your teachers and other elderly. A lot of social stigmas were different as compared to where we came from. The concept of ‘tipping’ was absolutely new to us all (me, Basia, Yabi, and Laura). The first time we went to eat dinner at Green Mill, and the check was put on our table, we were a little startled. But after a year of culturing ourselves in this new atmosphere, we have been able to embrace the differences with wide-open arms.

shivani2

I, personally think that all International students go through a similar phase where they figure out what to inculcate and what to neglect, what to keep and what to push away. While we are trying to do this, we built ourselves in an all-around perspective. Meeting new people, making connections, soaking in the culture, and keeping each other company through thick and thin. Since the first time we (me and my roommates) made a connection as International students, we had each other’s back. We had a supernatural feeling about trusting each other; it was strange but significantly a grand feeling. What still blows my mind is that, how the four of us being from distinct countries, even continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America) got along. We were used to a certain flavor of life, our liking for food and flavor, our habits, our sleep schedules, our customs, our rituals, our religions, our sense of styling, our definitions of beauty, every little thing was distinct. Somehow, this distinction acted like glue and we were stuck together! We got accustomed to each other, shared our beliefs, (being girls) we even shared our secrets. Introduced each other to our families over Skype, and our families to each other. It was quite overwhelming at first, to accept that the four of us connected in such short span and quick enough became so close that we could not go a day without talking, hanging out, or even humiliating one another. We even participated in each other’s cultural gatherings. I, as an Indian celebrated the festival of lights “Diwali” and was accompanied by lovely girls from around the world. We all dressed in Indian attires. I explained them the meaning and significance of this festival. And we ate mouth-watering Indian food. This was the situation when none of us even lived together. We would hang out in the lounge just to be within our comfort zone, which indeed we sought with each other. Recently, this year, the four of us we moved in together and it had been an absolute blast. We have cuisine from four different continents under one roof. We take turns cooking delicacies from our respective tastes. Not only do we share food and common beliefs, and sometimes end up disagreeing with one another, but also that doesn’t stop us from being goofy just the next second. It has almost been two months since we have been living together and all we have done is nothing but, alleviate each other and help improve in all possible ways. We are sisters, friends, companions, partners, sometimes; even therapists, tutors, cuddlers and so much more.

There is nothing more I could have wished for. Finding friends who would push you toward excellence, always encourage you, support every right thing you do, and even slap and drag you on to right track if you wander off. ‘Love is rare, but true friendship is even rarer’, and I am more than privileged to have this attachment with three beautiful girls. It is not just a second home anymore; it’s rather my newfound home. We solicit repose, contentment, ease, warmth, tenderness, and endearment with each other. The feeling of solidarity, belongingness and the level comfort we seek with each other is beyond the imaginable. I found my family among these fools.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

30 Comments

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30 responses to “Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Matthew Breeze

    Thank you for being so open and honest about your experience coming to the U.S. I have noticed the “international squad” around campus and I am curious if you think this makes it harder to meet American students? The other portion of your article that I found interesting was when you were talking about the Professor student relationship in the U.S. I think it is odd how informal we are with our professors and I am from the U.S. I can imagine that it was these types of things that were the hardest adjustments to living here.

  2. Michaela Campbell

    It is always an eye-opening experience to hear about the trials and triumphs of other students as we all try to find our place in college, work, new relationships, etc. Since I am somewhat a Duluth native (having only been raised 40 minutes away from St. Scholastica), I always have admired international students. One of the biggest steps into young adulthood is to leave your home and adventure elsewhere. But to leave your home country, or even continent, is an act of pure bravery. So, I cannot relate as to how difficult and at times frustrating it must have been to adjust to a new country and social atmosphere. All I can say is that it gives me hope in humanity, that students from four different countries, can come to a foreign place and develop such deep and lasting friendships in such a short amount of time.

  3. Amanda Sullivan

    This adventure in your life is so rare and leaves me feeling quite jealous. The opportunity to be able to study all four years of your college career in a country you may have never even step foot in before is quite a unique experience. I cannot even begin to imagine the feelings you may have had at the beginning of this journey. For me, I would have been beyond scared and would have closed myself of. However, it seems as if you made sure to branch out and make the best out of this experience. I love the CSS community and the close-knit relationships we are able to have with our peers, professors and faculty. It most certainly is not there stereotypical college I’m assuming you would have imagined. Lastly, the friendships that you have formed here are the type of friendships everyone hopes to find in their lifetime.

  4. It’s great to hear how you and your friends have developed such a great friendship in an unfamiliar environment. As an international student myself, I found that in my freshman year I found it easier to connect with other international students at first; we were all in the same boat, being in a different country! That being said, it is important to stretch out and engage with American students too, which I’m sure you’re well aware of. But for me, I have had unforgettable experiences with my American friends. They have welcomed me into their homes, into their culture and traditions. Spending this past Christmas break away from home, here in MN, reminded me of how fortunate I am to have stood out my comfort zone and go on to make lifelong friends.

  5. William Brennhofer

    I can only imagine the changes it is to leave your own country for another. College has been a huge change for me, and it is only 2 hours away from where I have spent my whole life. But as growing up in the culture that is all around me it, seems like a such a small difference then what you have had to learn as well as classes and everything else you have had to do to get through school. The idea that the mutual discomfort was a comfort is really interesting because it is such a weird way for bonding to happen, but i’m sure you don’t even realize it at this point after having your friends for a year now.

  6. Avi

    Being an international student I can totally relate to this article. I think it is inspiring to see how people adjust to different environments and settle here at college. My grandparents were born in India and they moved to Africa where my parents were born. My parents then moved to England where I was brought up. Being one of the few Indians here I know how important it is to continue to celebrate traditions from back home, Diwali for example. Increasing the diversity here as you did with your friends is truly admiring.

  7. Alexa Lee

    I think that you have done a great job in thoroughly expressing your discomfort and happiness as an international student that allows those of us who have not had this experience to understand it a little better – bravo and thank you for that. My freshman year, I had a roommate that was from Colombia, and I could see a lot of the things that you have described in this essay going on in her life. Luckily, she was also open to this experience, and she told me many times how excited she was to be here. It was so fun for me to to see her family when they dropped her off for move-in day, but also I wondered what I, if anything, could do to help her with her transition. I think a lot of times, like you said, no one wants to overstep any boundaries because we are unaware of each other’s customs. That is why I think that people should ask questions, if appropriate, and really listen to one another because that will help make situations like an International and American student in the same room much more cohesive. One could also spend more time researching other customs because it’s good to learn a little bit more each day. I also think it’s really interesting how much you bonded over food. It seems as meal time is a still a driving force for connections, and always will be. I am having you have found a home in the States, and I hope one day I will have the opportunity to experience another culture for an extended period of time, too.

  8. Dylan Brovick

    This is a great article that really is a positive story about different cultures coming together. After the first couple of days of the new semester i began to have thoughts like some of the ones brought up in the article. I am not an international student but this is my first year at Scholastica as a transfer student. The start of second semester seemed different to me because after going here for a semester I know more people, and have a better sense of belonging in classes. All it took was one semester, not even that to make friends, get involved, and have fun at a completely new place. It is great that you were able to make friends and grow a strong connection with so many. One of my favorite things about college is the vast amount of people you get too meet but also the amount of other cultures you meet and learn about.

  9. Caroline Grube

    When I was moving to Duluth for college this fall, I thought going four and a half hours away from home was almost too far. I couldn’t possibly imagine going to a different country! I admire any and all that are able to leave their home land for a completely foreign place. I love the idea of traveling and seeing new parts of the world, however, I am not brave enough to live in a different country than the one I grew up in. I experienced a mild form of culture shock when I moved here (to Duluth) from my small town in southwestern Minnesota. The culture shock for someone from a different country would be unimaginable for me. However, I also made fast friends who helped me through all of the many transitions that make up college.

  10. McKenna Holman

    What a great article! I can’t imagine what it would be like to move to a different country. I recently visited England to visit my aunt and uncle who have been there for two years now and we talked a lot about how difficult it was to leave home and the culture shock that they experienced. We learn about different cultures when we’re children, but until you actually travel and experience these different cultures you don’t really realize how different other cultures are. I’m very excited to travel more myself and experience different cultures.
    Also, how awesome that you now have friends from all over the world!

  11. Andrew Bailey

    Shivani, such an interesting and relatable read for myself in some small ways. I remember in high school that the international students would hang out a lot together both in and out of school. I was fortunate enough to befriend some, and I am still in contact with some of them today. I also moved across the country from Maine to Wisconsin and I did not know a single other person in WI besides my immediate family. It was a frightening experience, but it is interesting that when we are in unfamiliar territory we associate with people who are as similar to us as possible. In your scenario you were able to grow close to other international students, I related to people who enjoyed soccer, cross country skiing, and history/reading. It is also really cool that from these relationships we are able to take away so much, and I think it is a really great thing to have International Students in American classrooms because of the diversity and different perspectives they are able to offer.

  12. I thought this article was an amazing snapshot into the life of an international student! One thing that I liked was when you mentioned how you formed your “international squad”. I enjoyed that because it is so true! During the start of the school year the new international students usually stick together, and eventually will mingle with others and by the end of the year it can be like they aren’t even international students at all! I found it interesting how you and your roommates are from 4 different continents! I can’t imagine all of the ups and downs you four must have gone through! I liked the article very much, a lot of fun stories!

  13. Hanna McLevish

    I think it is very cool how you connected to these girls from different cultures so quickly. You all came from different places around the world and came together and became friends. It was so cool to see how things like that can happen. When I was in my first year of college, I was also trying to find my place and trying to find my people, and it is amazing that you have found that in people from a complete different culture than your own. Such a good story!

  14. Grace Young

    This article is beautifully written. I have never been out of the country, so the idea of moving to a different country, away from what I have known my whole life, is terrifying. I can only imagine what this situation would be like, and reading about how it has been for you is eye opening for me. I love hearing about how you have connected with people on such a personal level here, and they all happen to be from different countries as well. It makes me wonder if more students were able to travel abroad, what wonderful friendships and culture sharing would be done.

  15. Molly McCusker

    It’s so interesting to learn and hear about the differences in culture from the four different regions of the world that you, Basia, Yabi, and Laura come from. I think you all are so brave to move away from your family, friends, and hometown to attend school halfway around the world. It would be difficult adjusting to the cultural differences, even without the stresses, worries, and difficulties of college. But finding others who can relate and understand the pain you feel and the struggles you face, and being able to learn together is so much more comforting than trying to figure things out on your own. You girls are all so friendly and nice, and so lucky to have found each other! Each girl is able to bring a part of their culture into the friend group, and that makes for an such an interesting and exciting college experience.

  16. Siji Gonzalez

    This is great on how you explain on how you felt from day one. I am not an international student but I am a Latino. I am not used to seeing that many Latino students in my schools. so when going to college and seeing more it made me happy to see them. I felt a connection and kinda knew what they were feeling. But at first, just like you, I had to be careful with what I said. As i did not want to offend anyone. So in some way I feel a connection with the internationals because we all have our place and finding that group and doing the same activities helps us grow to become more confident and kinda have a backbone in our community.

  17. Ellen Hansen

    It is wonderful to hear that you and your roommates bonded /because/ of your differing backgrounds, rather than despite them. The fact that all of you were thinking and feeling the same things in response to this new environment, and that this served as fuel for your friendship, highlights the similarities between people of all cultures. People may come from different traditions, but the human response to being in a new, unfamiliar place is universal, as is the devotion people feel toward the food and practices of their home culture. As a person who has been a Minnesota resident her entire life, I have to say ‘thank you’ for writing this piece, because it is always difficult to empathize with people whose experiences you haven’t shared. This article provides a great illustration of the culture shock and social responses to being immersed in a completely new community, which is difficult to pick up on without a personal connection like the one you provided.

  18. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing this very personal article! I can’t imagine what it was like for all of you to move so far away from your families for school. It must be nice to have such helpful and caring roommates when times get tough. I really liked how you brought up the many different incidents of culture shock and how you and your newfound family had to go through these experiences together. I can see how confusing tipping can be. This article felt very heartfelt and genuine and that is way I really liked it, you opened up and shared an experience that started out scary but has turned into many memories that you will never forget. Again thank you for sharing.

  19. Sarah Plankers

    This article is beautifully written and provides a huge amount of insight about what life on campus here at St. Scholastica is like for international students. I think the value of connecting with one another on an empathetic level based on differences and similarities is a necessary part of growing up and emerging into ones true adult self. I appreciate how open and honest you are about the struggles and major cultural differences you have seen here in the U.S., and more so I think its good that you, as well as your friends, had to choose exactly which cultural practices you would more easily assimilate to and abide by. Although it’s good to immerse yourself completely into this culture, I think that maintaining a strong sense of your own culture and identity is extremely important. As we’ve seen throughout history, the maintaining of a culture, of language, traditions, customs, etc. is dependent upon the usage and upholding of that culture.

  20. Bryce Gadke

    I appreciate your level of honesty about the transition to the US in comparison to the homeland that you left. The “international squad” that you mentioned are all good people, and collectively I have noticed that you guys have a fun time together around campus. I am glad that when it is easy to feel all alone in a new country, there were other people in the same spot. Together you all overcame the feeling of being completely alone. That general theme has scared me a little when considering traveling abroad, but I am happy to know that there will be a group waiting for all travelers. The universal need for all humans to be social creatures helps to form long lasting friendships and like you said: family. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on coming to the US and building great friendships with us.

  21. It is so wonderful to hear the strong community you have built while being here! I can imagine coming to another country and leaving home for such an extended period of time would be very difficult, so it is important to have a strong support system. It sounds like it has been wonderful to share new experiences with one another, I can imagine it is easier when one does not experience so many new things and customs within another culture alone. It is also awesome that you all share your pieces of home with each other. Last year I roomed with a friend from Colombia, and I always enjoyed it when she was willing to cook and share a meal with me. I could definitely get a sense of the life-long bond you have made with your now roommates!

  22. I loved this! While I have been traveling I have found that not too far into trips I have found my “international squad”. It’s fun watching how close you get with people in such a short amount of time and how you remain close even after your travels are through. I am sure that you have found that within your group you have been more comfortable in situations where maybe no one is able to understand something or when navigating through a place becomes hard it’s nice to have them. Cheers to your travels!

  23. Isabella Restrepo- Toro

    Through reading this article, I could see a mirror of myself in the experience of being an international student. These people that were unfamiliar, had different beliefs, cultures, tastes, became my family away from home, and just thinking about having the joy to have been able to meet all of these wonderful people is a blessing. My first few weeks here I didn’t have friends outside my international family, I would eat with them, study with them, go out with them, just be with them all the time, and just like for you those internationals I started my year with became my family, my squad. Now after three years of living here, my family has expanded more and now not only international students are members of it. I has grown accustomed to the culture, without forgetting mine, I have learned to embrace the differences that come from surrounding myself from all over the world, and overall I have learned to see how much others have to teach me, and how much other cultures from other the world have to offer.
    I love the fact that you say “We were used to a certain flavor of life, our liking for food and flavor, our habits, our sleep schedules, our customs, our rituals, our religions, our sense of styling, our definitions of beauty, every little thing was distinct. Somehow, this distinction acted like glue and we were stuck together! We got accustomed to each other, shared our beliefs, (being girls) we even shared our secrets” as realizing that it was not only our similarities but also our differences that glued us and kept us together was one of the most amazing realizations I have had since coming to the states.
    I was also really touched by the fact that you all four have actually done some traditions of each of your culture as it not only shows the interest and respect they have towards your beliefs but also the love they have for you.

  24. Emily Bugni

    I loved this piece. It made me think of my new friends that I have met here at the College of St. Scholastica. We came from completely different states and from very different backgrounds and somehow we just meshed. Our relationship was meant to be. I thought I had already found my best friend in high school but I was wrong. I am closer to my new friends than I ever was with my old and I could not be happier. These friends are friends for life.

  25. Skyler Long

    It’s hard for any student to adjust to college life, so I’m sure it was even harder for you, coming to America. Sounds like everything is going well so far though, which is great. Personally, I adapted to college pretty quickly like you because everyone was in the same situation and so welcoming. Thank you for coming to the US and sharing your thoughts on the country. Hopefully you walk away with new friendships and memories from America.

  26. Hattie Meyer

    I want to thank you for sharing what it is like to be in a different country while attending college. It gave a great look into what one doesn’t most often hear. I will be studying abroad for a full semester in Italy and a few things you mentioned I haven’t even thought about. Trying to make friends, different foods, different people, different religions. The list could go on. This reminded me that no mater what I have to keep an open mind and not to be afraid to try new things. Thats half the reason why I am going. I think that anyone who is going to travel for long periods of time with people they don’t know should read this article. Thanks!

  27. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece. I can definitely relate to all the things you wrote about. As scary and exciting it is to move to a completely different country, I think it is very important to have people around who live out and understand what you are going through. Having friends like that was certainly a big part of my comfort and confidence when I first got here and I can see that it was the same for you. Your particular story is quite extraordinary; it sounds like you were all very lucky in finding each other and becoming so close. I think reading this will be a comfort to people in similar situations. Thank you again for sharing!

  28. Der Yang

    Hello Shivani,
    I very much enjoyed your reading as you talked about your dear friends and new home. While I was reading, you reminded me of my very first days in college, finding my group of friends, food to eat, and routines I should follow to become a healthy and successful person. Actually, I am not an international student but understood every single detail you shared. I too went through a very similar process into becoming the student I am today. However, I do acknowledge that you and the rest of the international squad have come across many more obstacles when it comes to adjusting to a new lifestyle in a new country. Your essay definitely brought warmth and sincerity to my heart! Thank you for sharing.

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