My skates are slowly sliding on the ice while I feel I am too far away from the world around. It feels like my thoughts and body are floating on the air, my brain can no longer process information like people’s names and where they come from, nor do I feel like going on with conversations like “why are you here at Pearson?” or “which classes do you take?”.
Being a late arrival can be tough. Once you arrive, you see so many different faces, you need to remember hundreds of names, and it is normal for people to say hi when they see you and forget about you the next day. It is normal for you to feel lost, for you to feel sad, when you know it’s not homesickness, it’s something more. It is normal if one day you want to stop, to take a break and be yourself, for just one day. When you stop pretending to be happy and smiling at others’ faces while burning inside.
I do not want to dramatize everything but it depends on each individual’s background and personality. Coming from a culture with unlimited rules and frames, Pearson seemed so free and open, filled with lots of opportunities and choices, that I was confused. My first week went on the flow of making new friends and acquaintances, and going through the process of “fitting in”, into my room, my house and the whole Pearson community. The fact is that arriving late has the big disadvantage of struggling to find your “social group”, because once you arrive, you see people already have their groups of friends. At least, your brain automatically accepts this idea, and you feel overwhelmed and a bit scared that you are left out.
One more thing to admit is that Pearson truly makes me get out of my comfort zone every single minute. Lacking people who speak the same language as me, I was forced to join different regional groups and start learning another language. Even though I don’t completely feel comfortable, it is the way that I take this challenge and struggle to succeed.
In addition to all these challenges, this place made me question every single value I had been presented in my religion and culture. I started doubting who I thought I was, what I wanted to do and the way I looked into things before. Handling these challenges is pretty tough, you need to take the courage to speak up if your beliefs and opinions are different, you need to find a way not to loose the ties that bonded you with your family and culture. Moreover, you need to balance academics, social life, your sleeping schedule and spiritual practices in order to keep on track in everything.
However additionally, you need to show up with a smiley face and get into small talk whenever you see someone, even though you don’t feel like smiling at the moment; even though you had a bad day, or you want to be alone, or you want to deal with your identity crisis first. So at this moment, you feel lost, not knowing what to do, struggling between a choice to keep it all on or take a break and be yourself just one day.
Thus, this moment, looking at other people on the skating rink who are freely managing the balance, I realize that I need to find my own balance where I can be happy. I don’t want to be pressured anymore to choose between the given options, or do something because other people do that, because I believe it is a way to lose myself. And this relates not only to late arrivals, many people may lose their beliefs and values because they feel the social pressure. However, it is not the intention of UWC to assimilate our thoughts but instead to show our perspectives and present ourselves in the way we truly are to learn from each other.
I am taking this day to contemplate who I am, just one day being me…