Home Away From Home

Osman Ahmed (right), of Kenya, and Yiming Wang, of China, watch a video on Ahmed’s computer. Ahmed and Wang have few problems sharing their room in Covington Hall despite their cultural differences.

by Kali Daniel

I lived in Tianjin, China for one month in 2013. I did not have to cook for myself or spend a long time adapting to my environment. I was there for one month, and have no concept of how difficult living in another country longterm can be.

International students’ rooms become their home. They decorate with pieces from their countries, or even cities, and adorn their walls with photos to remind them of their loved ones seemingly so far away.

As I interviewed students and invaded their personal spaces long enough to snap photos, I was interested to see amid the images of families, friends from their hometowns and local scenery, they had far more images of their friends at UNA.

The Office of International Affairs emphasizes how important it is to make friends with international students, not only to get them acclimated to the new environment, but to build lasting friendships.

As I took photos of graduate student Yogyata Batra, she explained to me the story of a tiny elephant in one of her cubbies on the wall.

Some UNA students she befriended actually traveled to her hometown of New Delhi, India, and Batra showed them around. They stumbled upon handcrafted elephants, and each UNA student purchased one to signify their friendship.

This story reminded me that even after international friends return home for the summer or after graduation, they are not gone forever. These friends are waiting to welcome us into their homes abroad and show us the kindness we once showed them at UNA.