Yeah, sometimes I got homesick, I miss legit Indian food, my family and friends, but none of that compares to the sheer awkwardness and annoyance I feel when subjected to the following questions/ comments. Just to clarify, this list will probably hit home with international students at all colleges, especially state schools where they’re a teeny weeny minority (and therefore an exotic species).
I have started calling myself Megan when I place orders at cafes and force myself to pronounce words the American way (though it kills me to pronounce schedule as “skedule” rather than “sshedule”). It isn’t enough. I’m still subjected to these four painful scenarios on a regular basis.
1. ”I can’t believe you’re an international student! I never would’ve guessed!”
Still confused about what this is supposed to imply. Does living overseas make you grow a pair of antlers or turn your skin green or have other characteristic consequences that you can spot from a mile away?
2. “You’re international?! But your English is really good!”
So what?!? Why are the two mutually exclusive? My English is probably better than yours, seeing as how I use British grammar, spelling, and pronunciation, but I’ve started switching to American English just to avoid THIS conversation. I still haven’t formulated a response. Have to smile and nod awkwardly and wait to evaporate every time this happens.
3. Awkward lame small talk
“Do you miss home? Why did you choose Berkeley? Are you ever homesick?” Uhhh we’re in lab and trying to finish a report in t-0.000001 hours. Yes, I get it, I let a piece of information slip but I still can’t believe that it has changed our entire topic of conversation. Why can’t we go back to discussing the physical properties of these crystals?! We’ve been lab partners for two months now, but starting this very instant, our future interactions will ALL revolve mostly around the topic of my hometown (“I love elephants! I love spicy curries! I love Bollywood movies!!!”) No, I haven’t been to the Taj Mahal. No, I don’t know how to make a biryani or curry from scratch (GASP!). Jesus Christ.
Obviously this isn’t true of everyone, but when it DOES happen… God. I seriously want to shoot myself. I get that people want to make me feel better but most of the time it makes me feel like an alien life form and draws the attention of everyone around us (HARVEST YOUR DAMN CRYSTALS, PEOPLE!). Only response that works? “Yeah, I used to bathe daily in the Ganges, and then I would drink milk from the family cow and go to school on my pet elephant.” I come from a big city and cows, elephants, and the Ganges are not ubiquitous, shockingly enough. But at least it stems the flow of breathless questions.
4. “OMG you have an accent!”
This one just takes the cake. SO TIRED OF THIS. Yes, yes, I do. Cool story. The shocker? SO DO YOU. If you went anywhere else in the world, YOU would be the one with the accent. EVERYbody has an accent; without pitch, tone, and inflection, we would basically sound like droning robots. Haven’t formulated an adequate response to this either.
I used to be so proud of being an international student my very first semester, but these four questions, coupled with the paradigm shift in MOST people’s way of viewing me, has made me really really reluctant to reveal where I’m from. Ugh. Obviously, I’m proud of the country of my origin and I love my unique status, and I have met many people who couldn’t care less, but the reason I skirt around the topic is that I want people to know me without forming a judgement based on (largely) stereotypical preconceived notions.
Sorry for this longass rant! Just had to vent.