UI community, experts define what ‘home’ is

By Kylie Corral, Staff Writer

For domestic and international students at the University, the concept of home can be complicated. For these students, home is rediscovered on a college campus.

University professor Cynthia Buckley teaches SOC 170: Integration, Assimilation and Multiculturalism: America’s Immigrant Society and SOC 270: Global Demography.

Buckley said diversity is a core strength of the University campus, and acceptance is an essential measure of health within academic communities. Opportunities to interact with diversity are key to individual success and better local, national and international communities.

“Campuses are, at their best, a home to all, a place of belonging, shared respect, and support,” Buckley said. “They are the tradition of the melting pot in microcosm, with different ideologies, backgrounds, identities and experiences mixed to create something more than the sum of its parts.”

Buckley explained international students often come together on campus, and though it’s not the same as their original home, it still gives students a sense of community.

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“They provide valuable opportunities to enjoy the familiar even when in a new and unfamiliar place,” Buckley said.

She added although the number of international students decreased because of COVID-19, technology keeps students connected, tethering them to home while they explore other environments. She said connections and ties are no longer limited by proximity; ‘home’ is now global.

Buckley said her ‘home’ is where she can connect to others, herself and her surroundings. ‘Home’ is the people she loves.

“Being open to new connections and experiences means home can be anywhere,” Buckley said.

Associate professor Brian Dill teaches SOC 364: Impacts of Globalization at the University. 

Dill said technological advancements allow students to sustain connections to home while being aware of global events. 

He said the University has a long history of global engagement, with a large population of nearly 8,000 international students from over 100 countries. 

“Our numerous global connections have led to increased diversity on campus, making this a truly remarkable place to live, work and study,” Dill said. 

After living in six states and five countries, Dill said he’s learned that home is not a specific place.

“Home is wherever I’m with my family. My wife and I have four children, three cats and a dog. Home is when we are all together,” Dill said.

Lingyun Xu, a first-year graduate student from Mainland China, came to the University in Fall 2019 for her master’s degree. 

Xu lived on campus as an undergraduate, and she said she visited her family during winter and summer vacations. Although she has adjusted to living with schoolmates and the housing style, she still misses her country, especially the food, saying she’s “food-sick” for home.

Xu said she hasn’t been home for two years and still isn’t sure if she can return this year because of flying expenses. 

She said even though it was tough, she survived these two years, and her parents trust her more, taking her more seriously when it comes to bigger decisions. 

“Home is all about people, which I always believe has not changed,” Xu said.

She said she loves the multicultural environment on campus and feels safe because she is not judged for who she is. For Xu, home is where you are welcomed and loved. She said the University has been a second home to her because of the support she has received from people in the community.

To her, homes are not unique, and people can have several homes.

“Families are not necessarily of the same blood,” Xu said. “People are family as long as they support and take care of each other.”

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