The Daily Illini

Keep in touch with your own culture

By Karen Liu, News Editor

While attending school here at the University means leaving homes and families for many, for some students it means leaving their counties and the cultures they grew up in.

That can be challenging. Trust me, I know. Two years ago, I left the country I lived in for 15 years and came to Illinois, not knowing the first thing about living in America.

On top of scrambling to piece my life back together — much like everyone else — I was worried about not being able to fit in.

I found myself not understanding the pop culture references, not knowing what the latest slang was and not sharing the same childhood experience that all my friends seemed to have. That cast a shadow on my first days at the University, but it also made me try even harder to fit into a culture that’s not my own.

It doesn’t take long to learn the latest popular trend or to pick up on slang, and it wasn’t long before I felt like I was just another American kid, fitting in perfectly with my new-found friends.

However, it also didn’t take long for me to realize that through all the effort to fit in, I lost touch with my own culture.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to be able to experience different cultures. In fact, that is one of the biggest perks of going to school in a foreign country, especially at a university that is as diverse as Illinois.  

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will give you a new perspective on many things, and it will expose you to thoughts and ideas you would otherwise never come into contact with. It can also give you the chance to learn about the different customs and cultures from all around the world.

But among all that, don’t forget to keep in touch with your own culture.

Being so far away from home often made me feel like a stranger, even when I was surrounded by my dearest friends. It gets especially lonely whenever a traditional holiday from back home rolls around but no one around me even knows about it.

At first I thought it was simply because I was homesick, but then I realized it is more because I had shed too much of who I was just to fit in. I started to realize that I was missing home and everything that was familiar to me.

It’s perfectly normal to want to fit in, and it is an important part of college to branch out and build relationships with people who are from different backgrounds. Just remember to keep a little piece of where you come from.

Decorate your dorm room with some objects from back home, join an organization with people who share the same culture as you do or invite your friends to try out your favorite food growing up. There are more ways than one to not only treasure your culture, but also to share it with the people around you.

And odds are, your friends will want to learn more about your culture and appreciate your different background.

So when you are packing up to come to college, don’t forget to bring your culture with you!

Karen is a junior in Media. 

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