Reflection: Home and Belongingness

The other day I met with students from the American University of Sharjah as part of a virtual exchange project for my International Relations class. After a brief introduction regarding the purpose of our intercontinental collaboration, we were separated into groups so we could introduce ourselves and learn more about our teammates. Once we’d established what our names are and what our favorite hobbies include, we moved on to what turned into a very intriguing conversation about where we call home and our struggles with belonging.

For me, home is pretty simple. I come from a small town in rural Virginia – the type of place you’d assume cow-tipping to be a leisurely pastime. I grew up playing minor-league baseball and fishing with my friends on my grandparent’s pond. I always felt a sense of belonging and familiarity.

Why Loudoun County, Virginia, Is The Perfect Fall Escape

Photo by Southern Living

Living in a small town sheltered me from the rest of the world at a young age. When I’d travel out of state – I’d be culture-shocked. I soon discovered there was more out there than just farmers and fields. A similar realization occurred to me once again when I discussed ‘home’ with my group members.

Home is defined by not only where you live, but where you feel you belong. Most of the members from my group who lived outside of the United States all related to the feeling that they don’t quite feel a sense of home in the UAE. One group member, from Iraq, shared his experience moving away from his country and explained though he lived in the UAE, it didn’t feel like home. Similar experiences were met with other group members, and factors such as ethnicity and cultural upbringing all helped articulate their struggles with belongingness.

Thinking back, I am glad that I was able to have that conversation with my group members because it helped me redefine the meaning of home. I’d always pictured home to be a place, a town, or a country – but never a feeling. I look forward to further collaborating with my group members.






4 responses to “Reflection: Home and Belongingness”

  1. Salim Alsalman Avatar
    Salim Alsalman

    I loved the comment you made about redefining the meaning of home, I always thought home is the place where you sleep and eat. After reading your blog you changed the meaning of home in my head cause now I feel like home is not only where I sleep and eat but where I feel I belong to.

  2. Mansour Allenjawi Avatar

    Thank you for publishing this blog, and from reading it I have noticed many similarities to the discussion I had with my group. I agree when you mentioned that home does not depend on the location, rather than a sense of affiliation. On the contrary, when I move from one emirate to another within the UAE I did not experience a cultural shock and found it to be quite identical. I would also like to add that expats in the UAE feel like it is there own home, because of all the privileges they get according to my group member. So this makes me wonder, do all Americans think that home is a place or rather a feeling?

  3. greenlem Avatar

    It’s really cool to see that you had a similar experience in your discussion group where the group members from the UAE described that home is more of a people or group rather than a place. I also understand what you mean by being culture shocked whenever you left home. Delaware is such a small state that the first few times I traveled out of the state when I was younger, I was in awe of just how different everything looked compared to the generic suburbs and city of Wilmington.

  4. robinsta Avatar

    I appreciate your perspective on growing up in a rural area and experiencing culture shock. I live near Dickinson campus, and in a 5-minute drive you will see fields and rolling hills. When I participated in a study abroad program in England, not only was it jarring adjusting to the new culture, but it gave me a new whole new perspective of the United States in relation to the world. Although brief, I felt a similar experience with our zoom meeting with the UAE students. What was your experience when moving from Virginia to Pennsylvania? Was it a culture shock, or did it feel familiar?

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