The eleven essays and narratives in this issue address cultural encounters in provocative ways, spanning issues such as the burdens of representing another culture, the difficulties of communicating one’s academic training across cultures, and understanding our own racialized and class positions at home and as we travel. By employing an anthropological eye and a humanistic sensibility, these accounts attempt to capture the profound sense of wonder, unease and dislocation that such encounters provoke. The issue opens with a digital narrative that expresses the challenges of crossing borders, languages, and cultures, and ends with a more whimsical note on the place of coffee in Balkan culture.
The theme of our Fall 2017 issue of Global Impressions will focus on Immigration. Many of us, if not all, emigrated from elsewhere to the United States, whether our ancestors came with the Mayflower, or our families came later to escape famines, wars, pogroms, or to seek their fortune or a more promising life in the new country of “America.” Some of us have stayed, some may be passing through and returning to their country of origin, but most of us share a history of coming from other countries and making a new life among the many others that constitute this country historically and today. What is your story of immigration? Where do you come from? And how have you and your family forged a new, “American” life and identity? Submit your story by September 29, 2017. For more details, see our submission page for details.
– Pinky Hota, Special Issue editor
Cassiopeia Lee ’17
What sense could I make of the cultural misunderstandings and difficulties with travel and identity that I struggled with during a year abroad split between studying in Hangzhou, China and Buenos Aires, Argentina?
Lucille Ausman ’17
For the first time, we were moving through the streets without the safety of the car window. Suddenly the stares, smiles, smells, sounds, and sights, were no longer guarded by a glass shield. We were experiencing India in a whole new way. It was the stares that I felt most penetratingly though. I was ready to see all this new place had to offer but I wasn’t entirely ready for it to see me back.
Yoon Roh ‘17
Last year, when I decided to study abroad in Shanghai for a semester of my junior year, I was excited to discover the modern and vibrant city depicted in the media. I was thrilled to live in a metropolis where I would learn about Chinese culture while also remaining connected to more familiar western values. However, the Shanghai that I experienced was a city in flux, still new to foreigners, and perhaps not as cosmopolitan as presented in the media.
Tiffany Wilt ‘17
Although I have only recently realized it, I have always felt like an outsider while at school. It first occurred in high school when I decided to take classes within the International Baccalaureate program. When the students from my program were studying with private tutors and taking expensive prep classes, my friends and I were stealing booze from our parents and sneaking out.
Dana Duren ‘17
My discomfort with speaking English was in part due to the fact that being around English speakers in India meant that I was only associating and connecting with individuals from particular social statuses (specifically, higher income and lighter skinned). I was aware that by only being able to speak English, I was limited in the number and range of people with whom I could interact, which fueled my fear of having an inauthentic experience.
Leigh Johnston ‘18
Looking back, it would have been a valuable time to observe the family and relationship dynamics of the other twelve people trying to help and watch the braiding process unfold. I would have liked to understand or at least observe what my extended host family was saying and how they were interacting as they shouted in Wolof across the room. I realized that in this moment, I was too overwhelmed by the newness of the situation to be reflective.
Geena Choo ‘17
Where are you from? While it seems like such a simple inquiry, usually following a trail of other repetitive, mundane questions of what one’s name, age, birthday, and favorite food are, it has continuously been a source of anxiety, confusion, and haunting throughout my life.
Isabella Revett ‘17
I was to be a representative of the college whilst abroad, and in turn represent my vision of India to the donors who made the experience possible. Smith College was waiting to hear about not only the quality of my internship, but also about my trip on a personal level. As a woman, I had to be prepared to answer loaded questions regarding my safety during the internship.
Danyi Zeng ‘17
As a Chinese international student majoring in anthropology, I have encountered interesting as well as bitter situations in which I experience a loneliness, particularly when I talk about anthropology outside classes. In conversations in China, I have found my academic training and international experiences help me to untangle the mysteriousness of the discipline back in my home country.
Nadia Aman ’20
Dearest Child is an ode to my 10-year-old self. This “letter” explains the deeper meaning of wearing a hijab and highlights the struggles that Muslim women like myself face wearing the hijab in this day and age where it is interpreted as a negative restraining article of clothing rather than a liberating piece of their soul.
Renee Picard ‘17
Dear Soon-to-be-Balkan-Traveler, you are likely unaware of your luck in scoring this trip of a lifetime, but I must warn you of one thing: approximately four weeks before you depart for the Balkans, please do yourself a favor and start increasing your coffee intake.