Our campus is an international one. With people from all over the world, we embody cultural diversity. What we greatly lack, however, is cultural integration: the mixing of people between cultures. Especially the big divide between the locals and internationals.
It looks comfortable though – a group of Sri Lankans who find a way to eat lunch together every afternoon, or a group of Bangladeshis who meet up at least once a day. This cultural segregation becomes more obvious during Nations Cup, during which everywhere you go, you see people wearing the jerseys of their countries with pride. More often than not, people just end up eating meals with their respective countries.
Then there are the Third Culture Kids (TCKs): these are the people who are considered international even in their ‘home’ country. The people who hesitate when asked where they’re from. Like me, some of them ask “Where should I stand?”.
What do you imagine is a good answer to the question “Where are you from?”. Most of you will just easily say your passport country, or the country in which you have spent the most of your life. But I am someone who has lived in 5 different countries, moving 9 times between them. So answering that question has always been a bit of a challenge. Do I say where I was born (also my passport country)? Do I say where my family and I are currently living? Do I just stare blankly at them, unsure of what to say?
You’ve guessed it, I always end up doing the last one. Especially now that I’m living in my passport country – living here has made me feel very ordinary. After spending a lot of time coming to terms with how interestingly different my life is, it felt wrong to give people the chance to believe that I was no different from anyone else.
My biggest problem arises during Nations Cup, because no one truly believes I’m Malaysian. I go ahead and join other countries – cheering for them with the passion I see they have for their own country. A passion I lack. I’m not saying Malaysia is a bad place, nor am I saying that I don’t love Malaysians. I’m just saying that I don’t know where I belong. Or at least I didn’t, until I started coming across other TCKs.
I used to be ashamed of the ‘where are you from’ question. Now I revel in the pride of being from the world. Some days I wake up feeling extra Thai, other days I have a deep longing for long desert rides. It’s a gift to know the feeling of gliding down the sand dunes when you’re merely 10, and to have seen the nodding donkeys more times than you can count.
To fight not being accepted into any single country, I became a part of them all. I hold the Mauritian flag with the same pride I had when I was shouting in Dhivehi (at least, trying to) for my Maldivian friends. We should take pride in being a campus where everyone gets to know people despite their backgrounds. We all have a story to tell; why not look for more diversity?
Written by R Dhavinya Saba A/p Retna Raj
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the editorial team at IGNITE.