April 11, 2013
I was eight years old when I first heard about Hamilton College. It was January and my oldest sister Riada just received her acceptance letter. Although I was happy for her, I kept on wondering why does she want to go to a university that is so far from home. She could receive a good education in Sarajevo and stay with friends, our family and me. I wondered how she could go into something unknown with that much confidence. What made Hamilton so special? In order to find the answer to that question, I thoroughly examined every newsletter that Hamilton sent us and I even made my parents translate the articles for me. During our regular Skype sessions I listened to my sister talk about her roommate, Amy, her professors, classes and all the other things that were part of her college experience. It all seemed nice, but it still did not seem to be worth being so far away from home.
Four years later, another acceptance letter from Hamilton College came to my home address. This time, it was for my middle sister Reisa. Being a few years older and more mature, this time I was happier because I knew how much Riada loved Hamilton and how many beneficial experiences she had ,and I wanted the same for Reisa. Again, I kept on reading about Hamilton, but I did not need my parents for translation anymore. I listened to Reisa’s stories about her different classes, the rugby and basketball teams, projects, clubs, people and activities. This time it was easier to truly understand what my sister was saying. It was easier to understand where her friends lived, because I had already heard about the dorms from Riada’s stories. It was easier to imagine the parties in the Diner because I was already able to imagine what the Diner looked like. It was easier to understand the process of picking classes because I already knew about the freedom that Hamilton gives its students. It was easier to imagine Hamilton.
When the time came for me to choose a college, I had no doubts. I applied Early Decision, decisive and confident that no other college could be a better fit for me than Hamilton. It just felt right.
I wanted to obtain a liberal arts education that would broaden my horizons and be my guiding light in finding my interests and passions. Moreover, I wanted the possibility to realize my potential as a woman, while living with exceptionally gifted Americans and other international students. I wanted to be surrounded by approachable professors and become an accomplished individual. So far, this is what I’ve experienced at Hamilton.
It isn’t always easy for international students to balance between two different worlds, with their habits, preferences and perspectives changing everyday. This often brings a fear of losing one’s true sense of belonging. It make you fear that you will always be torn between two worlds and that nothing will be the same next time you go back home. The truth is, it probably won’t, but I now know that change is good. The world we live in is ever changing and ever expanding. Today I know that by opening up to new people and cultures, you are not giving up on your “old” life. You mustn’t be afraid because certain things you can never lose. You don’t forget who you were, but simply evolve. Just as Henri Bergson said: “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” For me, changing means that I will play my Bosnian songs in the new, American surrounding that I love (kudos to my roommates for listening to me sing and speak in a language foreign to them on a daily basis).
Every day here, at Hamilton College, we are challenging our convictions and expanding our horizons. We learn more about the world that we live in, and more importantly, we learn more about ourselves- about our strengths and weaknesses, passions and desires. For those and millions of other reasons, the only thing I would say to the eight-year-old me, trying to understand the unknown world that her sisters were becoming a part of and that awaited her as well, is: It is worth it, Hamilton College is worth it!
“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).