Summary for busy folks: I have given you two years of my perspective on the international experience. It is time for other voices…today I am very happy that my friend Deborshi reflects on how dynamic the term homesick can be.
Debo is a lawyer, presently enrolled at The Fletcher School.We lived together in Blakeley last year. We did have trouble managing to see eachother, though, because my preferred time to get up is 06am (the earlybird), which is roughly Debo’s preferred time to go to bed (the nightowl). Among other things, he’s secretly trying to promote a book he’s written, available online at http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunter-Pigeons-Deborshi-Barat/dp/148283460X
In the first couple of weeks, I walked to Davis Square to open a local bank account. It was a big deal – my first foray into the U.S. banking system. I was struck by how seamless the process was. A manager ushered me into her room and breezed through the process. Since home was on my mind, I asked her, a perfect stranger, a professional in the middle of a transaction, where she was from, and if she missed home. She didn’t laugh. I was informed that she’d arrived from Romania some years ago. I asked her why she hadn’t returned. “I like it here,” she said. “How can you not want to go back?” She said, she was terribly homesick too, the first couple of years after her emigration. She went back often. At first, the visits were six months apart, then annual, then once in two years. “Now I don’t fit in anymore,” she said. I came out of the bank, aghast. There was a dim realization that homesickness was a concept too, a concept that one could get used to, and eventually it would disappear. Just like Kundera said. But to this day, I wish I don’t become that person.
Strangely enough, the first impression of coming to stay and study in Boston was not as earth-shattering as I thought it’d be. People spoke about adjusting to the ‘culture’ here, but what with movies and television, and pop culture in general, there were very few things about the U.S. which were unexpected. Coming from India, language too wasn’t a barrier. Of course, I was homesick, and I secretly prayed that others were too, so that I’d feel less embarrassed about admitting it. However, the bubble that an ‘international’ grad school creates, in many ways, mimicks the world: there are groups formed based on language, interests, skills, etc., so much so that I feel one can take Fletcher and plant it anywhere else in the world, and it would still essentially remain the same. This mini-world illusion is a trap. Listening to people’s stories from across the globe, it is easy to be lulled into a wider consciousness, and there comes a time when one goes home and discovers that it’s not the same anymore. The concept of home changes, and once sucked into this bubble, I sometimes forget who I am, and where I belong. Every time I fly back to Calcutta, my city, with each subsequent visit, I miss the city less, and familiar things either get defamilarized or staid, and I realize that a large part of the mind is always left behind in this bubble – as if it’s an antiseptic asylum, detached from the rest of the world.