Home away from home: traveling back to the motherland

Parul Pari, Magazine Editor-In-Chief

With three months off from school, visiting your extended family can be a great way to reconnect with your roots but what if your family lives 6,760 miles away on the other side of the world?

Suhanee Patel, sophomore, took a trip to India this July to visit her family for the first time in 11 years. According to Patel, she felt a difference in the way she was treated when people in India realized that she had grown up in America.

“I can understand my language but it is harder for me to speak so as soon as I would try to start speaking in the language, they would realize I was from America. As soon as I started talking, people would immediately treat me differently,” Patel said. “My family was all educated so it was fine at home, but around town even something as simple as eating at a restaurant, we would need the bottled water and when I would ask they would just look at me kind of weirdly. I think there’s this perception that people from America are better off and that’s not necessarily true.”

Patel, herself, noticed some of the differences in the way she had been brought up with the American value system versus the traditional Indian value system.

“[In the US] we don’t really value family as much as over [in India], for example there, everybody in the family has food together no matter what. Education is very highly valued, and if you are fortunate enough to go to school there, education is literally your entire life for the time your in school.”

Yet these traits, like the high value on education, are not only a part of the Indian regime. When Mark Wang, junior, spent part of his summer in China, he noticed that student life was solely academically oriented.

“Schooling is way more strict there and the grades of the children reflect on how the parents have raised the child. China is all focused on grades whereas in America there is also a focus on extracurriculars.”

According to Wang,  coming to China after being raised Chinese in America he could see the differences in the way people interacted on the street versus in their homes, unlike the US.

“In China, there is not that much face to face interaction between people and everybody is trying to do their own thing, like I would compare it to New York City because nobody is trying to talk to you.” Wang said. “Yet if you visit someone at their house, hospitality is a huge thing in China. I remember we went to my grandparents’ house and they had new neighbors moving in and [the neighbors] just gave us a huge watermelon as a gift and it was a very nice, welcoming, thing to do.”

Hospitality is not only an essential part of Chinese culture, but according to Michaela Ilieva, senior, when she took a trip to visit all her family in Bulgaria, she noticed how hospitality and the sense of community was also an essential part of Bulgarian Culture.

“All of my grandma’s neighbors had gardens and if my grandma had some extra tomatoes, she would always give it to the neighbors and they would do the same so no matter what you always thought of the other,” Ilieva said. “Like if you were at the store and you remembered that ‘oh my neighbor mentioned she needed some of this’ my grandma would just grab it for our neighbors and there was like an expectation for the person to pay them back or anything.”

Being able to explore her roots and see the similarities and differences in the ways that communities lives across the world even when being thousands of miles apart is something that Ilieva says she is grateful for.

“It was so cool seeing where my parents took vacations and went to school when they were my age,” Ilieva said. “Visiting the country this summer was such an eye-opening experience into what is really out there in the world.”