May 2, 2013
Being an international student comes with a progressive set of challenges. For starters, it is a culture shock when you get here. It’s the language (“y’all” can’t be a real word), the food, (mac and cheese, if you think about, is carbs topped with fat) and everything in between.
After being seasoned by two years at Hamilton, the issues that I’ve had to encounter the most didn’t come with this being a different world, but in bridging the two worlds. That bridge needed to form when I came out (things aren’t quite so accepting back home as they are here). It needed to form with the weather (you can imagine my sentiments when I got back from Spring Break in the perfectly warm Pakistani March, into the heaps of never-fading snow). But most of all, for me, it needed to form once I designed my major. Coming from a world with limited opportunities, where people are programmed to stick to the traditional options, describing to everyone that I was a film major came with a quite a diversified set of responses.
There is the “Oh my God, that sounds so rad” school of thought. This would be the acquaintances back home that didn’t really know of a lot of people doing something so artistic, and found my cinematic pursuits to be excessively cool.
Pros: It’s pretty awesome to be thought of as a maverick and a big shot.
Cons: It blows when you’re actually not.
Then there is the “That’s a hobby, love, not a career…” persuasion. This would be, firstly, my parents, both doctors, thus both people of science, who don’t quite understand how one can make a living doing anything that doesn’t come with a stable paycheck, and a reasonable starting salary.
Pros: People think you’re crazy.
Cons: Not in a good way.
Then there are the “You go, girl” believers. Leading that rank would be my brother, who’ll give me thump on the back for anything (and I mean anything), and all my friends, who supportively will agree with the first school of thought, but will probably roll their eyes as they share the beliefs of the second.
Pros: You’ve got a good support system.
Cons: Your support system expects you to be big.
So as I begin to wrap up my second year of college, writing scripts, planning shots, preparing for internships and networking with alums, it’s just funny that most people think the climb of an international student ends when he can speak fluently, socialize with the wider American world, and manage to not gag at the idea of mashed potatoes, but all that is just the first chapter. To Clinton, NY, I’m a film major, but on the other side of the world, I’m a dreamer, a maverick and maybe clinically insane, and from where I sit, it is a fun ride to see how we can all be so similar, yet so different.
“From Where I Sit” is a column dedicated to the international voices of Hamilton’s campus. If you are an international student and are interested in contributing a column, contact Barbara Britt-Hysell (firstname.lastname@example.org).