The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Meghana is a Class of 2021 Biology Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Asian Student Union, Fostering A Program of Excellence in the Sciences, International Relations Club. She studied abroad in Sydney, Australia.

The sudden jerk of the plane landing awoke me from my deep sleep. I turned to look at my mother and she smiled at me and gave me a kiss on the forehead. She whispered in my ear that we were here. At once I became thrilled at the thought of seeing my father after two long years. I was no longer tired from the long journey from India to South Korea. As we walked towards the exit he was there, waiting for us with flowers in his hands and a grin on his face. I squeezed my mom’s hand with excitement and ran to embrace him.  As I took my first step onto the Korean soil, I could feel the cold winter air blowing and numbing my face and ears.

Although these events took place almost fifteen years ago, they remain fresh in my mind because these are my first memories of my second home, South Korea. Ever since that day, my life has been quite different from that of an average Indian girl. I became what is known as a ‘third culture kid’(TCK). My family moved to South Korea and I ended up spending most of my childhood and all my adolescent years in the city of Seoul. Graduating from an international school in South Korea, all my peers were also applying to schools in America and I followed along. Coming to the U.S to pursue my higher education seemed like the next natural step for me. Unlike my peers however, I did not have the opportunity to visit schools in the U.S before applying and deciding. I had to blindly decide where I was going to spend the next four years of my life alone and apart from everything I knew. Although this was in many ways daunting, I had a positive outlook because I knew I had a good understanding of the American culture. I was very aware of my skill and ability to quickly adapt and blend into a new environment easily. 

After spending my first months in the U.S in Denver, Colorado I was ready to leave for Michigan. My college and adult life were about to begin and I had started to feel the butterflies in my stomach. I took my first steps into Hope College and walked around trying to learn the ways around and memorize where everything was. I was excited, but also nervous because I did not know what to expect and how my feelings would shift. As I walked into the Rotunda of Martha Miller to begin my international student orientation, I saw a few people scattered around. That day I met the international community and some of my first friends at Hope.

Being an international student in the U.S is quite challenging. It comes with a lot of restrictions and we miss a lot of opportunities in regards to jobs and internships because of our status as aliens in a foreign land. We don’t get to see our family members as often as we’d like and slowly the physical distance starts to also create an emotional distance. I often found myself putting on a front in front of my parents and telling them I was having a great time. When in reality I was struggling to cope with all the changes and craving the familiarity of home. There are also so many cultural barriers that we have to overcome. What was once normal to say, normal to do was now a spectacle for others. 

However, I found that there were lots who were willing to listen and empathize. Although they did not necessarily live the everyday mental struggles I had, I found that they wanted to know where I was hurting and help as much as they found. The staff members of the Fried Global Center at Hope have been my biggest supporters in the last three and a half years. They have a passion to help all their international students. They provided us with host families that gave us a home away from home. They helped us to understand what the logistics were to stay legal in America. They constantly work towards helping us maintain our status here in the U.S. They advocated for us when needed and had our backs every step of the way. Their work here has a great impact on us international students. Slowly over time because of these people, Holland, Michigan and Hope College became my home. 

I have learned the patterns of Holland and now I know what to expect in the different seasons. The summers always begin with heaps of tourists suddenly showing up for the Tulip Festival. The once quiet and cold Holland, Michigan would suddenly be bustling with people. Downtown Holland would become busy with shoppers and what once was a space for the local farmers market would turn into a carnival for little children. Though the summers in Holland were indescribably beautiful, the winters were dreary and brutal. Like many other students who faced the harsh winters in Michigan with the lake side effect in making it worse in Holland, I found it depressing to wake up before the sunrise and then come home after the sun had already set. The number of days with the sunshine were very limited. My only source of serotonin seemed to be during the first couple of days of winter when everything would turn white and it felt like I could escape reality and live in a winter wonderland. As much as the first few days of snow were enjoyable, even the snow would eventually turn into slush and everything would become dreary once again. However, I knew that the cold wind, the dark days would soon go away and once again I could experience the beautiful summer of Holland again. 

I can’t talk about my college life experience without mentioning what has impacted all of our lives immensely – COVID-19. I believe everyone learned something new about themselves through this pandemic. It broke so many patterns that were followed for years and made humanity to step back and reflect on ourselves. It was challenging and difficult to push forward, but it taught us to handle situations that were outside of our control. It has also just been a big reminder to humans. It has taught humanity about responsibility, equality, and our smallness relative to everything and nature’s superiority. The pandemic has really reiterated how powerless humans are. By forcing us social distance and staying at home over a long period of time, Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to contemplate what is most important in life, how we relate to each other, what kind of world we have created for ourselves, and whether there is a better way to conduct our lives.

As I close this chapter of my life and move onto the next, there are things I want to take with me and there are also things that I would like to leave behind. Among the things that I would like to take is remembering to always work towards a balanced lifestyle. To spend a dedicated amount of time to everything that matters to you. I also want to constantly remind myself moving forward that when you do not have enough motivation to push forward, discipline will get you where you want to be. I want to remember to take life as it comes and not be too attached to anything because nothing in this world is going to be permanent. We were placed here with a purpose and it is our job to discover what that purpose is and to fulfill it to the best of our ability. I want to take with me the positive outlook on life. Yes, there are many terrible things in this world and life, however, there are also many very beautiful things. In the end, all I can do is work towards being the best version of myself and I may fail many times, but I will become stronger and more equipped to take on all the challenges life throws at me. 

Published by Margo Walters

Margo works in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion as the Assistant Director. She has lived in Holland since 2003. When she is not too busy, you can find her performing or in the back yard in the garden.