Category Archives: Column

Why I Left Home

By Arianna Bernas, Opinion Editor

The International Students: intrepid, curious, and hungry to prove ourselves. Oftentimes, it seems as if we’ve always wanted an educational experience outside of home, and for some of us that may be true. But no matter how ready we may feel we are, leaving home and everything we know is not easy.

I am by no means attempting to demean the experience of students who didn’t go abroad for school. Such a drastic change is enough to make anyone anxious, no matter how far from home, and I can’t speak for others. Those of you whose homes are separated by oceans, however, I feel I understand a little better. The stresses of adjusting to a new environment, culture and community that are so different from what we’re used to can make it tough to remember why we’re here in the first place. I’m definitely guilty of wishing I could take it all back sometimes. It’s so easy to forget just why I made the decision to take such a huge step out of my comfort zone. So why, then, do we do it? Why do we leave home?

Perhaps, if you’re anything like me, you’ve always known. I remember sitting on the padded mats of my childhood bedroom, listening to my mother tell me about Bryn Mawr (yes, I’m a second generation Mawrtyr): about the lanterns, the changing leaves, the waves of homesickness and the bonds she built with her friends. I could recite the Anassa Kata in my sleep even before I was admitted. She told me about how she relished in her own independence; she built her own experience and learned to live fearlessly. It quickly became something I wanted for myself. Since then, my parents and I worked together to make my dream of studying abroad come true. If you hold on to a dream for that long, it becomes almost like destiny.

For others, the idea of leaving home is complicated by the fact that where home is can be difficult to define. I was having a conversation with Cara Navarro (BMC ‘20), a friend of mine, when she brought brought this concern to light. “I’m Filipino, but I didn’t grow up in the Philippines,” she told me. “I grew up in China, Cambodia and here (the US). I don’t really know where my home is.” For Cara, leaving home was less about leaving a place, but more about leaving the most constant presence in her life thus far: her family. For someone like me, who’s only lived in one place her whole life, leaving home was about leaving both the familiarity of Manila and the comfort of my family and friends.

What Cara and I both had in common was that we both felt out of place. I can’t remember a time growing up that I didn’t think about leaving home, which feels horrible to say now. Despite having lived in the Philippines my whole life, I grew up in international schools and constantly got glimpses into to other cultures alongside my own. I remember drawing a self portrait when I was about five or six and giving it to my parents. Understandably, they were pretty upset; I’d drawn myself with blonde hair and blue eyes. Even though it was crudely drawn, that portrait was an expression of how I felt. I always felt that my experience wasn’t truly Filipino, because I hadn’t gone to a traditional school and I could only speak Tagalog well enough to get by. It isn’t anybody’s fault but mine; had I not decided on pursuing my dream of studying abroad, I would’ve had a more traditional upbringing. But it always made sense to me that I should leave because I thought it would somehow help me realise where I belong.

More than anything, though, I think what drove me to leave home was my desire to be independent. Even if I’d gone to college at home and lived on my own, my family would’ve been so accessible. Maybe you’re like me, and you wanted this kind of intrepid independence, far removed from everything you know. Maybe you don’t want it. In any case, we signed up to grow up. Leaving home is a pivotal point in all our lives; it signifies us stepping, no matter how tentatively, into adult life. And as scary at is may seem, it’s also incredibly exciting.

That’s where this column comes in. Over the course of the next couple of months, I’ll be sharing with you what my life is like as an international student at Bryn Mawr. I’ll be sharing my experience in hopes that you, wherever you may call home, will come to understand and appreciate your own experience. Most of all, I hope what I have to say makes you feel a little less displaced, and a little more at home.

From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016

Millennials Matter: How to Miss Class 101

By Abby Hoyt, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The following email was inspired by real life events.

Dear Professor,

I’m incredibly sorry to inform you that I will not be able to turn in that ten page paper due tomorrow at 11:47 a.m. or attend class at all for that matter. For you see, I’ve had an accident. I know what you’re thinking; “This is just another one of my procrastinator students emailing at 1:00 a.m. asking for an extension.” Well, for once you are sorely mistaken. You see, earlier this evening I was the victim of a terrible travesty.  

I was at the library writing a different paper for a different class and got up to go to the bathroom. On the way back from the bathroom, a book caught my eye. It was the perfect book. The one that would have been a spectacular addition to the essay I had, of course, already written for your class.  I took it down off the shelf and immediately felt my shoulder plummet towards the ground with the weight of this book. I looked up at the sky to ask God for the strength to help me carry this book back to my desk when I saw yet another book that would have been perfect for your class! Just my luck! I stacked that book on top of my other one and continued down the aisle back to my laptop where the essay for another class (not yours, of course) was waiting for me. Before I knew it I had quite the stack of books that were all miraculously related to your course. I had never been more excited to do research for a paper I had already written in all my life!

Unfortunately, my intense excitement and passion for learning caused me to miss a step on the library staircase and send me spiraling down to the bottom level. I hit my head on the concrete floor and sprained my ankle, but worst of all, the books—the beautiful books for my ADDITIONAL research—went flying through the air and out the window. Oh no! Now nobody will know about the brilliant new research regarding agricultural practices of serfs in Western Europe during the Middle Ages! Please forgive me for not being able to recall the findings of this Earth-shattering work, but I did hit my head pretty darn hard.

So, my initial plan for tomorrow was to leave my room around 6 a.m. and crawl all the way to your classroom so that I can attend your seminar at 11 a.m., but I knew I would faint on the way there from heat exhaustion or pain intolerance because my newly implemented Buddhist lifestyle encourages me to purify my body and prevents me from taking any sort of anti-pain medication.

I now acknowledge the absurdity and futility of this journey, so instead I will appear in class via the drone I bought off Amazon last week when I was bored in class (again—not your class, of course). If the drone malfunctions, I will get notes from one of my more reliable peers. Please let me know if there’s any other way I can make up missed the class time. Thank you so much for your unfailing understanding of my predicament. I hope to see you as soon as soon as I am allowed to leave my bed as recommended by my doctor.


Your Humble Millennial

From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016

Holidaze: A Season of Surprises

By Arianna Bernas, Opinion Editor

Thanksgiving was never a big deal to me. I always saw it as a very “American” holiday, much like Halloween. Even though my father did prepare Thanksgiving dinner and villages gave out candy on Halloween night, the trees stayed green and the air stayed hot and humid. To me, Halloween and Thanksgiving were temporary pauses within Christmas season.

Back home, the Christmas season starts in September. Restaurants start playing Christmas albums on repeat and Starbucks releases its Christmas drinks and Holiday Cards. Some families, mine included, skip Halloween altogether and put up lights and parols — Christmas lanterns — on our roofs. Shopping malls compete with one another to see who can erect the largest and most beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The air cools slightly, and families spend their free time planning Christmas feasts. Relatives fly in from all over the world to celebrate together. I may be biased in saying this, but no place does Christmas like the Philippines.

For a lot of us International Students, holidays like Thanksgiving or Halloween have always felt half-baked. Experiencing Halloween without pumpkins, or Thanksgiving without the fall leaves might have been special, but rather odd in the hot tropical sun.

Nevertheless, experiencing the holidays I never before this year paid much attention to has been interesting. It feels like there’s something new to celebrate every few weeks: from October break, to Halloween, and into Thanksgiving. It’s like receiving several small presents over time, as opposed to waiting a long time for a rather large one.

“It’s more exciting,” says Anna Landi, a first year at Bryn Mawr. Anna, a Korean-American born and raised in Thailand, had never celebrated Halloween. “It was just another day for us.” She continued, “It’s also really strange celebrating Christmas with palm trees and no snow. I never felt like I was fully experiencing that kind of Christmas.”

What’s particularly exciting about this holiday season, for us at least, is that part of it will feel completely new. Both Anna and I are spending Thanksgiving here and flying home for Christmas; she to Bangkok and I to Manila. We will both get a taste of the Thanksgiving we grew up hearing about; with the fall leaves and the week-long family and food fest. But then we get to return home to the familiarity of our own special types of Christmas. It’s a unique blend of tradition and discovery, of old and new.

At Thanksgiving dinner, it’s a tradition in my household to go around the table and pray about what you’re grateful for. In light of everything that’s happened this year, I think it’s important to remember all of the little things that help us to create a home away from home. I’m grateful for the new experiences I’ve had and the ones I look forward to experiencing. I am grateful for my friends who make this place feel more like home. I’m grateful for the Bi-Co community, for constantly teaching me something new.

What are you grateful for?