As an international first-year who applied early decision to Smith, I took a lot of chances on the college. Everything I knew about the U.S. and Smith was filtered through pop-culture, social media, blogs and word of mouth. And even though it sounded like this adventure might be worth it, it was very hard to be sure.
A year later, nearing the end of my first spring semester at Smith, I’m getting emails about Discovery Weekend and hosting prospective students and seeing Gold Key Tour Guides roaming the campus. This has forced me to reflect on how my outlook on Smith has changed.
I am smarter about the decisions I make. I am able to recognize which decisions I trust solely myself with, and which decisions I need help with. I know that a liberal arts college’s favorite slogan, “Explore! Take wild courses, it’s just your first year!” must be approached with caution when one is an international student. Our challenges (and goals, to some extent) are separate.
Of course the intrinsic excitement associated with a liberal arts education was not completely lost on me. I have started trying to have my passions and my ambitions meet half way. I find myself wanting to communicate socio-political realities, rather than fantasies, through my writing now. I discovered that when starry-eyed college kids say that a single class changed their life, they aren’t completely exaggerating. Some classes really do make the daily grind worth it.
The presidential election, in conjunction with my time so far at Smith, is helping me find my place, on-campus and in this country. As someone who used to be lazy about keeping up with the news, I am now geared with multiple news apps on my phone and am a prospective Government major.
Smith has also made me extremely patriotic. I realize that growing up I took my identity for granted because everyone I had ever met had more or less the same general identity as me. But now, surrounded by people from all over the world and from all walks of life, I feel like a Pakistani. I take every chance to take ownership of my country and identity, to speak in Urdu and to be a representative. It’s new, exciting and ironic.
I also have new fears. The large, looming, almost existential fears I had before starting college faded very early on in the year. They did not stick around, as I had suspected they would. I want to credit this to the strength of the international community here. The international community does exist and they’re very nice people. Knowing that there is a community standing behind you is a huge confidence-booster and a constant reassurance that not only do you belong here, but that all you need to do, to make most problems go away, is ask questions. Then you move on and gear yourself up for new challenges.