It gives a whole new perspective to foreigners at your home university. Not even just foreigners, but all who are new to the unique culture of your university. Speaking from their shoes now, because I’m currently wearing them everywhere I go, I know and understand on a deeper level where they’re coming from and the struggles at hand for one like us. You’re stripped from all that you once leaned on for support and are reduced to a one-dimensional character with no way to accurately express yourself. You’re not funny anymore, not clever, not bold, because in a new language you don’t have the grasp, the hold, that you did in your native tongue. Sometimes you don’t even understand what’s going on, you can’t even understand your new friend because they’re using words you’ve never heard before or they’re talking so fast it’s making your brain sore and you cannot focus.
When I’m sitting in the outdoor coffee shop “reading” it’s really because I am longing to make a friend, but I’m intimidated. They all seem like they have their groups, they have their friends, and they’re content with that. How to break into a group is the other thing. I don’t know what to say or how to start a friendship since I scorn the small talk. I want to dive right into the deep stuff, but that’s not how it works. Even if it did, I’m not sure I currently posses the ability or vocabulary to do so, so I sit here and watch from afar. How sweet it is when a few people I recognize pass by and say hi. How much sweeter it is when they invite me to come with them, taking a tiny step into their lives. The new ones at school appreciate when someone stops to say hi, but what they really long for is someone who will invite them into their lives, someone who will include them and envelop them with love and acceptance.
There is a new solidarity. Instead of always looking out for myself, I’m being humbled and challenged to realize that when I tear my eyes off myself there’s so much more to see. Instead of being consumed with sitting with my friends, I can slow down to see the girl who’s experiencing what I’m experiencing now, and understand at least a bit what she’s feeling. I can extend a hand of friendship and offer to help. I know that has been the most encouraging to me, when someone I meet offers to help if I ever need anything, even something as simple as offering a phone number or to eat with me makes the world of a difference.
So if nothing else, I will return with a new perspective, a deeper solidarity, with those who are in situations like me. In the meantime, I will enjoy each sunset and each day that goes by.