The three most common questions you’ll hear at any given college orientation ask what your name is, what you want to study, and where you’re from. All three are hypothetically simple questions, but I’ve moved over ten times in my life, so I don’t really know where I’m “from.”
Where I was born, where I lived the longest continuously, where I lived the longest altogether, where my parents live now, and where I live now are five entirely separate locations. Instead of having one place to call home, I identify as a Third Culture Kid. A Third Culture Kid has the culture of their parents, the culture they grew up in, and the third culture is the combination of the first two. I was born in America, and I’m at Northwestern for school now, but I spent a lot of time growing up in England. Instead of identifying as American or as British, I identify as simply International and exist between identities.
The high school I went to in England was small and about 95 percent international. When I was looking at colleges in America, Northwestern stood out to me as a school with 10 percent of its students being international – high numbers for an American university.
Upon arriving at Northwestern, I went through the International Students’ Orientation before the beginning of Wildcat Welcome. During ISO, all of the international students move in early and spend a few days together. We are assigned International Peer Advisors, older international students who gave us advice and went to a series of activities with us each day. In groups we go through a lot of the basics – we are taught common American terms and how to use the public transport system, but more importantly, we started forming bonds and friendships with other international students before Wildcat Welcome even started.
I knew that when I went to college I didn’t want to stand out as the girl from England, and I didn’t want to be one of the few international students. I wanted friends who understood where I was coming from, both literally and emotionally, and I found that at Northwestern. I had a network of international friends right from before school even started, and that network continued to grow throughout the school year as I was able to attend events through the International Student Association and other student groups.
My college transition included culture shock, and that’s a transition that I can’t imagine having gone through without my international friends. Going to college far from home can be a challenge, but I’m lucky to be able to go to a university where I’m not the only one jet-lagged at the start of the quarter.
– Casey Norlin