March 2, 2014

BHOWMICK | My Life in Your Country

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It has been almost two years for me in America: land of the free, soul of the soulless. When I stepped out of my airport shuttle into chaotic Manhattan for the first time in my life, I was lost in a second. The average person was taller than me, and everyone and everything was daunting. My father, who was as bewildered as I, got yelled at by a lady who looked like Darth Vader because he did not have cigarettes to offer her. Both of us knew that despite my exuberant personality, this was not going to be anything I had ever experienced before. Nevertheless, the racing pulse of New York City convinced me my life was about to change forever.

We took the bus to Ithaca and coming from India, I had never seen any place so sparsely populated in my entire life. Like every dramatic story, we reached Ithaca when the clock struck midnight and honestly, both my father and I were more than eager to run back home. The next day, as soon as international orientation, PREPARE, started, I got lost in the excitement: socializing, making new friends and have not stopped ever since. My father barely saw me for the rest of orientation, and I am so thankful to him for letting me go. I do not have any siblings, so there is no one else who I can be more grateful to than my parents who had the courage to let me find my life and dreams in a world so removed from theirs. All of us who go to Cornell are here in the first place because someone in our family supported us and believed in us unconditionally, and we often stop believing in ourselves when working through a “rigorous Ivy. ” On those stressful nights, I remember the unwavering faith someone has in me, even if they are so many miles away.

It was difficult watching my dad leave because I was on my own like I had never been before. I had my international friends from all over the place — Costa Rica to Kenya to Colombia — that I had met through PREPARE, and it was reassuring having each other. But then regular orientation started and America flooded into my life.  At first, I swear I thought I would drown.  I was so nervous before the rest of you — who are now some of my best friends — arrived to the point where I almost wanted you to not come. In hindsight, I feel so naive doubting the opportunities going to Cornell would offer me.  I went to my first fraternity party skipping at the front of a large group of freshmen and I pretended to love it even though I had never felt so international in my life. I missed my PREPARE friends for the first week, and every time I noticed a familiar struggling international face, it was a relief.

Two years later, we have all come such a long way. We know our way around campus, how the traffic here works, what to actually order at Collegetown Bagels, most of the songs people play at parties, our professors’ accents and so on. This change has been possible just because we have accepted the fact that in order to truly feel like we belong, we have to let the world around us in, and get over the hesitation that comes inherently with being away from home. My first semester at Cornell was all about “browntown.” I then met my best friend who had grown up in Delaware, but was more invested in Bollywood and all of the joys of being Indian than I was. That was when I realized the enchantment of it all struck me. What are the odds that two people who have grown up on opposite corners of the world, meet at some point in their lives and become indispensable parts of each others lives? I think that is the point of going to a university like Cornell, and we are not likely to realize this till we are dangerously close to graduation.

So I started taking small leaps of faith. I started talking to people even if they were devastatingly good-looking, spoke up in class despite being aware that I speak in a very different accent, gathered the courage to try the dynamism of Greek life, fell in love, fell out of love, started writing a column and getting praised and yelled at for it, got lost in some sketchy bus stop at Harrington and have loved it all. I have always believed that embracing diversity is a two-way street. I feel that everyone who goes to Cornell and makes it through every challenging week is an adventurous person already for getting  this far. Why restrain ourselves once we get here? If you invest everything you have in Cornell, it will give you so much more back. This goes especially for international students who have the terrific opportunity of bringing the world so close together everyday and I doubt we realize how incredibly lucky we are and I hope everyone is cherishing every day on the hill — because the days are already flying.

Aditi Bhowmick is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at [email protected]. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester.