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I Make The 8,500 Mile Commute to College…

Weekends are the hardest. 

I come down from my dorm room, all cozied up in my pajamas after a long FaceTime session with my parents who are just about ready to call it a night after their long days at work. I walk into the lobby of my residence hall and sit down by the couches, waiting for my friends to show up. To my right, I see a girl run past the café and couches into the arms of an older woman, who catches her weight, grasping tightly onto her, seeming like more of a desperate clutch than a hearty embrace. Behind her stands a tall, beaming man who puts his wide arms around those two most important women in his life. “We missed you so much sweetheart!” he says, barely able to contain a tear that I can hear welling up in his eye. “Let’s get you into the car,’ the older woman echoes, ‘the house feels so empty without you.”

Just like that, the three of them walk out the door, in perfect step and in utter synchrony with the others. Through the glass windows, I see them, an intermingle of 3 sets of hands round each others’ waists, bundling into that “MI” registered car together, driving off into the warm cuddle of a long weekend together…. A family. 

And there I am, yet again, sitting on that couch, on yet another Saturday morning, 8,500 miles and 12 hours away from my older man and woman and my car and my hug and my house that feels empty without you, and all I can do is sit and watch that girl and her parents and their happy lives, and smile. Because in all honesty dear reader, I am so incredibly grateful for them.

Leaving home when you are all of 17-years-old is hard, to say the painful least. But when home is thousands of miles away in suburban Bangalore, India, the pain is one that you cannot even imagine. The goodbye barely feels like a goodbye because the welcome-week adrenaline still flows through you. You’re too busy and too pumped about your newfound, hard-hitting independence to internalize what it means when that car drives away from you, heading to Detroit International Airport to catch its 24 hour-long-flight. Emphasis on International. Emphasis on 24 hours.

It means that there is no going home for the small breaks and no calling home without first having to check your clock app. It means living everyday in the purgatory between deciding where “home” even is and where you want to belong. It means that you’re navigating through this foreign country that you have never been to in your 17 years, but without the parenting hand to do it. It’s scary and it’s strange, but it’s the price I pay to be here and to get this education. From the minute I get up to the minute I go to sleep, my body is in Ann Arbor, but my heart makes the daily 8,500 mile commute to go to college. And yet, I’m one of the luckier ones, because my parents can afford to fly me back whenever I choose. But I know that out there, and on this very college campus, are hearts that beat despite making sacrifices even larger and more unimaginable. 

But, it’s the price we pay to be here.

For the first month of this academic year, I threw the grandest pity party for myself with every waking moment. I convinced myself that I was the victim of some horrid cosmic joke and that the universe was conspiring against me by sending me this far away from my family. What I realize now though, watching that girl, those parents, and that MI registered car, is that I am no victim! I may have had to struggle, but it was an opportunity to harden myself. It was a much needed lesson in independence and the hard drop from the nest that shook my core right out of its comfort zone. The turmoil and tribulations of being that “international” student on campus never stops haunting you… I think. But, the voices in your head that tell you you’re a stranger in foreign waters eventually tend to die down… or maybe you just learn to tune them out. But, I still maintain that am no victim, because at the end of the day I get to leave this journey with an education that puts me in the top 1% and an experience that is incomparable to anything a majority of people will ever have the privilege of having. I am no victim, dear reader… I am privileged. I saw the opportunity, and I leaped 8,500 miles in a minute; while my heart still goes the distance every morning as I wake, I’m happy to say the jet lag is something I’ve grown to enjoy.


Image courtesy of washingtonexaminer.com

I am a Junior in LSA at the University of Michigan, majoring in Biology, Health and Society and minoring in English. I'm pre-med and hope to become a surgeon one day. I'm extremely passionate about health, literature, and social justice. Also, I add raisins to everything. It's concerning.
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