Sunday, September 7, 2008

International Friends

Leaving home to go to college for some people is bad enough, but what if you had to leave your family and travel half-way around the world, entering into a culture with completely different traditions than what you know? In June of 2006, 583,959 international students were enrolled to study in colleges in the United States, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At Mizzou, the university I attend, there are approximately 1,300 international students. 
I thoroughly enjoy learning about other cultures, so when the opportunity presented itself for me to become involved in International Friends, a ministry to help internationals in Columbia adjust to life in America, I was thrilled. I expected to learn a great deal about other cultures, which I have. I expected to have a little difficulty understanding some of the people I would meet, which I did. But what I did not expect is how much we had in common. The first night I went, we had a fellowship dinner. Everything was going extremely well. I was meeting new people from China and other places across the globe. After we finished eating, the leader of the organization stood up and explained a little exercise we would do at our tables. I do not know how the exercise led to it, but somehow, we began to talk about how much influence families had on our lives. 

After two weeks of being several states away from my family, I was getting to be quite homesick. I knew it was just part of the process of adjusting to a new life, but during that time, I realized how great a role my family had in my life. 
As we talked, one of the students from China spoke up about how he did not realize how big an influence his family had had on his life until he moved away from them just a few weeks ago. Although this comment was very common for such a setting, it moved me deeply. Here were two people, from the opposite sides of the world, who were having the same emotions. Both were just homesick students, trying to adapt as best they could to their new life. Somehow, knowing that other people understood how I felt made me feel more at home. Here I was, supposedly helping these people adjust to their new life, and I felt like they were helping me to adjust to mine.

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