For many, beginning university is a step into the future that once only existed in your imagination.

Freedom and youth blend into an intoxicating mix of boundless energy, immense possibilities, life-altering ideas, and inexhaustible fun.

You’re unshackled—the master of your destiny. What’s more, no one is telling you to clean your room anymore.

But take a step back. Imagine you’re a continent and an ocean away from home, where sign posts all bear the characters of a foreign language; you have a non-functional cellphone and you know no one.

Literally. No one.

On top of that, your body clock is 12 hours ahead of local time, microwavables are currently the staple, and the water tastes weird (It really does).

“Wait, I have to figure out what courses to take? What does a half-credit mean? What’s APA?!”

Suddenly, beginning university is a dive at the edge of the cliff when you don’t know how to swim.

Perhaps this is the extreme of the international student experience. While some students feel out of their element, others are immersed in an adventure of unparalleled wonder.

The uncertainty fuels the excitement, the unfamiliarity is enchanting, and in the strangers that abound are friends to be found.

Undeniably, the experience of living and studying abroad is worth more than the degree earned at the end of it.

The lessons you learn outside the classroom—be it cooking, juggling a budget, learning greetings in six languages, or striking up a conversation by commenting on the weather—keep you afloat.

You begin to understand that independence is more than a way of being. Rather, it’s a responsibility and boy, did you have it so much easier back home!

One lesson in particular is rooted in the most common question that binds the experience of all international students:“Where are you from?”

While a geographical location is sufficient response, this can stir a quarter-life identity crisis. (Trust me, it’s a thing.)

You might be talking to a third culture kid who’s lived most of their life in Dubai but their family roots are in the Philippines, thus a straightforward answer is impossible.
But to this question, perhaps a more abstract response fits. Does the term “global citizen” ring a bell?

As our communities diversify, nationality, citizenship, ethnicity become fluid.

Our identities, rooted in experience, beliefs and goals, are today unbound to the geographical confines of the question ‘where we are from’.

Yes, it’s an abstract concept to be a ‘global citizen’. But perhaps learning together, living together in colorful, compassionate communities can be a step towards understanding global citizenship.

After all, reading this probably sparked the realization that commonalities in the university transition are shared between the now-distinct categories of internationals and domestics. Small world, eh?

To you, wherever you are from, you are part of the vivacious, expanding global citizens’ community at Trent – welcome home.