As told to: Tristan Wright and Corey Pryor
One of my favorite memories growing up was on Friday nights, wherever we were, England, Japan, China, we used to always have Indian takeaway. This was a big thing because it’s my favorite food. And my parents, my sister, and I would get together and watch movies. It was just the four of us and then my sister left, so then it was the three of us. It was special and I still think about it.
I’ve lived in many different countries: the U.S., Japan, England, China. My family moved around quite a lot because of my father’s job.
I didn’t really like the first move. I was in seventh grade here in Michigan, and I was used to being with all my friends and family around all the time, then suddenly I was in a place with no friends and my immediate family. Being a foreigner in a new country was tough because of course not everyone spoke English, and before moving I didn’t know any Japanese. I learned the language over the four years I lived in Japan, but at first I felt like everyone was gonna hate me. It definitely wasn’t like that, but I lived in a town that had very few foreigners like me. Tokyo is a metropolitan city, so if you go there you know English will be spoken. But I didn’t live in Tokyo. I lived in a town significantly smaller.
Sometimes, being in a foreign country, for me it was more so Japan than the others, but I felt like I was an ambassador for the US, whether I wanted to be or not, because I was the foreign kid and there weren’t any other foreigners. You don’t wanna make people think badly about Americans so you always mind what you do. Coming back to Michigan could be very comforting sometimes. I feel very calm in Michigan; I know how everything goes, I’m familiar with it. It was almost like…I don’t want to say a relief, but it could be nice, stress free. Friends who’ve known you a long time don’t care how you act, so you can relax and be more yourself.
That was the hardest move. The other moves were much easier. I got the rolling stone, the travel bug, and I started to think, well, we’ve been three years in one place; it’s time to go somewhere new.
And that’s what we did. After Japan, we moved to England for about three years. That’s where my dad is from, so it was nice to have some family around again. I got to see my grandmother every couple of weeks. In high school there, I was part of a program called IB, which is like taking AP classes for two years. So instead of being like the typical high schooler where after school I didn’t have much to do, I had to stay in the books and keep my mind focused on school. I also played Rugby at a pretty high level. I played for my high school and my county. My teammates kind of made fun of me because I was from America. They made little jokes asking where my helmet and pads were.
After England, we moved again; I spent about a year and a half in China, where my parents still live, and then I decided to come back to Michigan for college. Honestly, it was really difficult to come back here for school, not because I was leaving home—we’d moved around so much, “home” was something of a flexible concept—but it was because I had gotten so close to my parents. I thought I was going to miss them a lot. I thought it would be really awful to try to spend the next three and a half months without seeing them, since I couldn’t drive home on the weekends because they’re on the other side of the world. That first winter break when I was able to go back to England was such a relief.
At first, my sister also went to MSU and lived on campus, so I could go see her on the weekends if I wanted to get out the dorms every once in awhile. But then she graduated and moved to Pennsylvania so my second and third year, I felt a little lonely because I felt even more away from home. I was living in a single so I didn’t have a roommate to really chat with if I wanted to have conversations. I just felt more isolated the longer I was away from home. So I tried to FaceTime whenever I got the chance so I could cope with feeling lonely.
I’m a senior now, and I’ve settled in, and there’s a lot to enjoy here on campus. I think the best is after the winter, when it’s starting to warm up and it’s like 50 degrees out on a Sunday, and campus is quiet and sunny. Just making the walk from east campus to Brody to have your favorite dish or whatever is so serene, and I’ve quite enjoyed that, the whole nature aspect of the campus.
That said, after all of my experiences growing up and here on campus, I truly believe that study abroad is important. Actually, I believe that it should be mandatory. Alright, I personally haven’t done study abroad through MSU, but that’s because I’ve already lived the experience of being able to travel the world. But a lot of people that are at MSU are from Michigan and the farthest they’ve traveled was down to Florida. And, yes, it’s true, Florida’s a lot different from Michigan—and I know that Michigan itself is very diverse, from metro Detroit to Grand Rapids to Traverse City and other places, but there’s just something different about traveling the world and having to fit into different cultures. You start opening up your eyes to new food and new activities. I believe experiencing different countries and cultures makes a person more worldly and more able to accept people for who they are even if they have different beliefs.
I mean, I think about it like, don’t get me wrong, I love burgers and fries, but there’s a lot more out there, you know?
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.