When we think about the group of international students, we often think of their happiness and luckiness to study abroad and to travel to different places. However, people generally ignore how hard these international students have tried in accommodating the new environment and how hard they study in every single night.

Boston Winter 2014

I am a woman with Chinese blood circulating through my body. I have lived, eaten and studied in my little hometown, a tropical island called Hainan island, for almost my entire life. I had never known that my dream in studying abroad would actually come true one day. 2014 was the first year that I leaved my hometown, and it was also the first year for me to see the snow.

(Left) I was playing with snow in the back yard. (Right) Unfortunately, I could not pass the thick snow mattress, and I fell down.

2014 was the heaviest snow year in 50 years in Boston, which made my life tougher as a tropical woman.

Few days before 2015 Chinese New Year

I went to the Chinese supermarket few days before Chinese New Year (Chinese biggest festival). A mom and her daughter about my age caught my attention. I heard the mom, with her daughter's schoolbag on the shoulder, asking her daughter what does she want to eat for dinner, yet, I was standing by the shelf, alone. I ran away from the shelter as fast as could to avoid catching up my memories about New Year and families, but these memories just flushed into my mind without my permission.

Chinese Homemade Food

Living in a brand new country is hard, it is not only about the cultural differences but also about the food. Especially being the first year leaving my home country, the feeling of missing homemade food and families got stronger and stronger when I was in the supermarket looking at that mom and her daughter's interaction.

(Upper left) burger; (upper right) hot dog; (bottom left) pizza; (bottom right) steak.

But all I had were these American food in the U.S. The question my mom asked me before I came to the U.S. “Can you stand for the loneliness there without families and friends” popped into my mind. But it was not until the moment I was in the supermarket few days before Chinese New Year, I could intensively feel what the word, loneliness, means.

Hainan's newest built Haixiu expressway.

Summer 2015, I went back to my hometown, but I found out something changed me. There was an expressway building right in front of my home, which bothered me for a while in figuring out the way to my destination. I could not remember the name of my most familiar street near my junior high school. Moreover, I could not help but saying some nouns in English. For instance, I could not find a proper translation to express the word “presentation,” “volunteer,” etc. Or even though I knew their Chinese meanings, I just somehow felt weird to me if I compelled myself to say these words in Chinese. Therefore, I tried my best to prevent those English words from spilling out of my mouth until I went back to the U.S. study again.

(Left) No Name Restaurant in Boston (Upper right) Freedom Trail (Bottom right) Korean Kimchi Jjigae.

Winter 2015, I went back to Boston before I came to Purdue. I went to my favorite Korean restaurants; ate the freshest lobster in a harbor; walked through the most crucial historical places in Boston through the Freedom Trail again. Every place that I had been through reminded me how familiar I was to Boston, and how hard I work to accommodate myself to that city, American culture and food. “Oh, I don’t want to leave this place. I think I have started to like it”, I thought.

My first group of friends from Multinational Integration Xchange Programin Purdue

Spring 2016, I started my new school at Purdue. Luckily, I did not have to accommodate to a new culture again, instead, I only needed to adjust to the new environment and make new friends.

My home made dinner on 2017 Chinese New Year

2017 was the third year that I'd been apart from my family in the Chinese New Year. Nonetheless, it is easier for me to accept this fact. I called my families, relatives and friends saying happy New Year to each of them; I went to my friend’s apartment where we cooked together to celebrate the New Year.

The newest mall

Through the phone call, I got many updates about what was going on in my hometown. I heard that a shopping mall was just opened across the biggest park from my best friend; I heard the expressway was finally constructed from my parents; I heard somewhere in my hometown a new shopping mall opened again. I am glad to know what is going on in my hometown, but why do I feel like an outsider again? I knew less and less about the things happening in Hainan as I spend more and more time in the U.S.

In the past three years, I moved in and out, from one city to another, getting more and more familiar and unfamiliar with these cities. And yet, I am still in the maze trying to figure out my belonging.

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