By Nate Castellitto, Student Writer, Celica Cook SBM Student Life Editor, Amy Depretis, Student Writer & Kendra Sommers, SBM Culture Editor
October is considered as Global Diversity Awareness Month, a time to celebrate our differences, become more understanding and aware of our underrepresented communities, and learn from our diverse experiences and perspectives. For this Global Diversity Awareness Month, a student from each continent represented at Messiah, spoke on what home means to them, while being thousands of miles away from their original, physical home.
Rubén Langston (Costa Rica)
“I was born in San José, Costa Rica [the capital city] …Then we moved down to the Pacific coast to a little town called Nosara,” explained Rubén Langston. Nosara is a village with a mixed community of both Americans and Costa Ricans. And now, after moving to America for college, Langston continued, “In a lot of ways Costa Rica still is home. [But] living in both places has kind of created a divide in some ways. There are different cultural norms that are either Costa Rican or American, but I have both, so I feel at home and out of place in both.” Despite this constant pull in both directions, one thing Langston appreciates about his Costa Rican culture is their community-oriented society. “As a whole, America is a very individualistic society,” he explains, “Family is super important in Costa Rica, so that’s one thing that has kind of stayed with me from Costa Rica.”
Danna Ramirez-Gomez (Colombia)
If anyone knows how to make a home away from home, it’s junior Danna Ramirez-Gomez. Born in Colombia and emigrating at eight years old, Ramirez-Gomez grew up with two homes. “As a kid who immigrated… it’s just very conflicting,” she says, “I should start feeling like this is home completely, but I can’t.” Ramirez-Gomez will always cherish her Colombian heritage – from the jersey displayed on her wall to the photos and letters from family. And speaking her native Spanish with friends is a must! Ramirez-Gomez is also an R.A. this year and feels that her experiences uniquely qualify her to welcome residents, while helping them to embrace their own transitions. Building a home anywhere requires hard work, but Ramirez-Gomez says that its hard-working nature is one of the things she admires most about her Colombian culture (besides the food!) Ultimately, Danna says that her heart will forever be split between her two homes, but she wouldn’t change this for anything. “I have found the true meaning of hogar (home) in the arms of my family,” she says, and the sense of pride she has built “is a reminder that I have been able to love and keep embracing my Colombian culture, while still thriving in this new place that I call home.”
Yana Avdeenko (Russia)
Yana Avdeenko, originally from Russia, spoke about how moving to America for college changed her perspective on the idea of home. Avdeenko began, “When I lived in Russia, it [home] was more of a place with my parents, but when I moved out, I wasn’t sure what home would mean for me…I was so far, and I couldn’t just come home every week, every month, so I realized home is a place where someone is waiting for you, even if it’s just cats right now for me.” She continued by explaining that one of the things she learned from Russia was she liked taking care of cats and they don’t require a lot of work, so she carried that passion with her to America. Another way she incorporates her Russian home while in America is by dressing up. Aveenko explains, “Dressing up, not necessarily by occasion…because a lot of people in Russia dress up…so not following the causal standards all the time.”
Jireh Bagyendara (Uganda)
Senior Jireh Bagyendara is from Kampala, Uganda. When asked what home is to him, Bagyendara immediately began, “Home is a lot of crazy driving. It’s like driving in New York City except the cars are like a third of the value.” Home for Bagyendara is also where he developed personality and values like, “Being open,” he continued, “and asking questions that some people would say cut too deep…[Another] big plus to Uganda is just how warm everyone is,” which is how Bagyendara believes he developed this sense of hospitality and brought it with him to Messiah, always having friends over at his apartment. Bagyendara also speaks on the struggles of being so far from Uganda, now that his immediate family is no longer close by: “Having to be intentional about reaching out to your family has been a struggle…now it weighs heavy on me to miss out [on their lives].”
Tjia-Yi Lau (Malaysia)
Tjia Yi Lau is a sophomore digital media major from Selangor, Malaysia, called Petaling Jaya. Lau spoke about her experience of home being a sense of comfortability. She said, “Home to me is where I find family and a sense of familiarity in things…It’s the little things, for example, home is knowing how to get to the closest grocery store, sending my mom to and from work every day at a specific time, getting to scare my little sister when she comes home from school, seeing my church group every Friday night, smelling the smell of garlic being fried almost every night.” Now that Lau is far from her home, she said, “I really hope that if anything, I’d been able to share a bit of my country’s story, and the beauty of our culture and languages with the people I’ve met here.”
Hye Lim Jung (Papua New Guinea)
Originally from South Korea, freshman Hye Lim Jung, spent the majority of her childhood growing up in Papua New Guinea. Jung’s idea of home comes from her unique upbringing as she explained, “Home is…number one where the family is, and then number two is I have little pieces of home.” Jung said she has little pieces of home in both Papua New Guinea, Korea, and now with her new experience at Messiah. She spoke a little to the challenges of conceptualizing home saying, “My struggles with the idea of home is I don’t feel like I can fully, one hundred percent fit into a place…I think that’s one of the challenges of being multicultural. But a way that I try to overcome that is to look at it from a positive view. I might not be able to fit in perfectly, but I know how to adapt and I’m more flexible because of life experience that I’ve had.”
This article can be found in the October issue of the Swinging Bridge Magazine.