Student Blog Contest Winner: Of The Seedling to a New Plant

Imagine a tree that was born and grew in a place surrounded by other trees that have been there for decades. She is used to the weather and the company of others. The environment basically denotes a comfort zone, a known terrain.

One day, for whatever reason, a seedling was made from one of its branches. This seedling has gone far away to a land where other birds sing, where the soil tastes different, and where the climate seems inhospitable. But like every living being, the seedling struggles to survive. Slowly, it takes root, learning how to weather the weather and enjoying the new nutrients that feed it. But deep down, a part of her is left behind, and she misses it.

Now time has passed, and the seedling has become another tree, with seeds that have fallen and sprouted around it. The longing continues, and it hurts sometimes. She has learned to live differently, but she is also able to live where she used to live. There are times when she thinks about going back, but she understands that even with all the difficulty of being a different plant in each season of the year, the nutrients of this new land will make her grow stronger and more beautiful. So, she stays.

This is how I would describe the experience of being a student abroad. It's committing the folly of leaving the comfort of the known to dive into the new. And the beginning follows the pattern of any new beginning: with pain. Culture shock brings suffering. You understand the language, but you don't feel the language. You breathe the disconnect and the sense of what’s missing. 

It is a dialectical process. But as the material that dies serves as fertilizer for the life that reappears, the tree bears both the fruits of its struggles and the scars of the journey. What was just new becomes good news, but the struggles are still far from becoming obsolete. And you can take the first steps. And you get the first words of affirmation. And you can overcome the condition of being an immigrant and feel a sense of power in your coexistence.

This is how being an international student in the United States is: a journey of facing stereotypes to find success.  Only you will remember what it was like in the first days of living life as an underdog.

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