In our first meeting with students from the American University of Sharjah, we were asked to “reflect on the differences between where you grew up or where you live now and where your exchange partners live. Some factors for us to consider were the environment, and culture.”
After our first session, my group which consisted of Tia, Emily, Jonah, Rashid, Malika and myself came away with one major similarity; we were for the most part from small towns.
Rashid: From a more modernized city 30 mins away from Sharjah
Emily: Small town in New York
Tia: Small town in Delaware
Malika: From Kashmir
Mason: Small town in CT
Jonah: Small town in PA
We discussed our hometowns in detail after noticing we shared this similarity.On the American side of the conversation, most of us grew up on the East Coast; from this shared background we noticed many similarities. I described my hometown, Farmington, Connecticut as a quiet town dominated by a women’s school called Ms Porters yet there wasn’t much to do in town. I said I often spent time in neighboring towns as they gave me access to activities such as films, sport games as well as my high school. This view was echoed by the rest of the Americans.
On the Sharjah side of the conversation; we saw two different views on life. Malika brought up how because she was born in Kashmir; a conflict region between India and Pakistan and that as a result, she viewed her hometown with more gratitude, care and attention. Rashid, being born a half hour away from Sharjah, discussed how he grew up in Sharjah and felt more comfortable being there than in his hometown.
We all had access to major cities such as New York or Sharjah and yet we preferred to remain in our small towns whether that be for familiarity, comfort or just a sense of home. The fact that we had all spoken along this same wavelength was a major shock factor for me. I had walked into the discussion thinking that there would be a majority of people from major cities, yet it was the complete opposite. It felt comforting knowing I was surrounded by people who had a common background and that we were all in the same boat no matter where we came from.
Speaking with my peers and getting to learn more about their hometowns and where they came from culturally was an experience I will always be grateful for. We found a key point of similarity among the vast differences in where we are all from. I personally enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds because it helps widen my world view. In the words of J.R.R Tolkien, not all those who wander are lost.