Home is wherever you make it

Angel Baikakedi, Columnist

We are all familiar with the saying “Home is where the heart is,” but I believe that home is wherever you make it. Around this time last year, before I came to Whitman, I was making plans to go home for the summer, but I could not do so. As one of a few international students in the U.S. that haven’t been able to go home since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and as someone who recently started college, it is safe to say that these have certainly been trying times. 

If home is indeed where the heart is, then I doubt any of us first years have been able to make a home out of Whitman within the three months that we’ve been here. I know this to be true because my heart is back in my home country.

Illustration by Madi Welch.

As international students, our thoughts are constantly with friends and family back in our respective countries. We wonder whether they are safe and hope that nothing negatively life-changing happens to them. 

While we miss our loved ones, we are also bombarded with a lot of new information that comes with moving to a new country — there is the culture shock, learning one of the most complicated tax systems in the world and other logistics that need to be taken care of before we can settle down. We also experience an intense period of homesickness, which I’m also sure isn’t exclusive to international students.

On the bright side, there are so many resources available to international students that have allowed us to make our home here. I’m sure many of us have found solace in the affinity clubs on campus or have made friends with people who align with our interests. The Intercultural Center staff has made settling in easier, too, by assisting us with things like Social Security applications. Many of us have taken the time to explore the downtown area, following the COVID-19 protocol of course. There is always something for everyone to keep busy with outside of classes. 

Entering a new environment is not easy, especially since we are all adapting to the changes that come with the COVID-19 pandemic, but if we dwelt on how everything is overwhelming and challenging, then we would never be able to make a home here. 

Home isn’t where the heart is. It is where you decide to embrace changes and obstacles accordingly. It starts with small things, from how you decorate your room to how you interact with the community around you. As first year students, the odds seemed pretty much against us at the beginning, but I believe that even though most of our year has revolved around uncertainty and testing new waters, we are still able to make the most out of what we’ve got.