I was only 15 years old when I left my home in Bosnia for the first time, yet the memory of gearing up to study at United World College in the Netherlands is still crystal clear. What was supposed to be a two-year long study abroad adventure, turned into a six-year journey of a lifetime. That very journey is what showed me that home is not a place; home is a feeling. And that feeling is exactly what I found here at St. Lawrence.
I recently saw a Facebook post that said, “Too foreign for home, too foreign for here,” and, quite frankly, I could not have said it better myself. The friendships that I have made all over the world and the new cultural norms that I have adopted have shaped me into the person that I am today. And that person is slightly different— just as patriotic, but secretly less Bosnian. My mom measures it in the amount of peanut butter that I eat. I, on the other hand, measure it in the number of hours I spend Skyping my SLU friends over the summer. And my friends from home? They simply say ‘too foreign.’
Just a little something is off. And that same thing is off when I am in the U.S., too. As much time as I spend here, I will never fully belong here. And the moment I realize just how different my manners are from what is considered to be American, I start to worry. After all, I am too foreign for here, too. Sometimes I wear black head to toe, I refuse to eat anything deep-fried, I believe that crepes are the only real pancakes and I go completely crazy in time for Eurovision. And with that in mind, I fully embrace my European values as I sing my heart out to that good old country playlist I created during my first day at St. Lawrence.
But I am the right fit for one place. One place that makes me feel at home. One place that I can always come back to. One place that will forever make me feel like I belong. I am the right fit for St. Lawrence.
From friends, professors and faculty to community members, everyone is understanding and appreciative our own, diverse values. In fact, if it were not for my support system, I would have never made it through the kind of winters I have never experienced before.
SLU understands that some days you just need to Skype your parents all day long and not say a word in English, because nobody on this whole campus speaks your language. SLU understands that Belgian waffles are essential for survival. SLU choirs sing songs from all over the world, sometimes even in four languages at once, and suddenly I learn to appreciate the beauty of accents. SLU sends its students abroad every semester, so I know I can always talk to someone about that one special place that we loved. At SLU, we host weekly I-house Tea Times, where domestic and international students come together in celebration of diversity. SLU has granted me a wonderful host family, which has helped me transition into the community and overcome the initial culture shock.
That feeling of belonging is what I mean when I say home. And this is why I have found my home at SLU.