Plight of a Domestic-International Student: The Struggle of Staying Connected to Home While Creating a New One

Iqra Athar ’26

Staff Writer

Dorm, Mather Hall, Class. Dorm, Common Room, LSC Quad, Class. Class, Long Walk, Class, Dorm, Mather Hall, Gates Quad, Dorm. 

It’s been a month and three-quarters since I started calling Trinity my new home. Though it might have taken a while for the word ‘home’ to smoothly roll off my tongue from the paper I once wrote it upon—but it did. And now, not only can I easily pronounce the word home, but I feel its syllable reverberate in my blood as I do so. I found my community, a group that I can call my people; I have found my home. 

It is simply a starting point, and you never know what the future holds for you, but I cannot stop myself from hoping, praying, and believing that the same people (my people) would show up again to support me on the most important days; and, they did, for the first-year representative elections for Muslim Student Association. At Trinity, I built a new home for sure, but, simultaneously, I can never stop myself from looking back at my old home as well, the one back in Pakistan. 

I might hold a blue passport, but my true roots lie in Pakistan: the place I spent 18 years in, the place that, besides its unstable economic and political situation, smells of the scents of home including halwa puri, jasmine, old Lahore, and my mom’s tenderness. The place that I now carry with me when I put jhumkas on for class, wear kameez dupatta to Friday prayers, or when I sit cross-legged on my bed as I listen to some urdu ghazals (poetry) in the background: every time replaying the promise I made to myself when I came to Hartford for college; a promise to come back fully equipped with the means needed to bring change at home.

As I write this article today, the same promise replays in the background. A forever reminder that I never left home, but, nevertheless, when I open Instagram once, twice, or three times a day, I find myself feeling disconnected when I read news from Pakistan. Today, now Pakistan’s yesterday, Imran Khan (the former President of Pakistan) was barred from holding office over the Toshakhana case sparking protests around the country. Now, what is the Toshkhana case? I wondered as well, and it didn’t take me long to catch up to it with a quick Google search and call with my father. Nevertheless, this wasn’t all. 

Another Instagram post later led me to finding an article on Pakistan being taken off from FATF’s grey list while another announced the likely retirement of Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in five years. Until today, I had been unaware of the situation in my country for the past week. A quick search and a call with my parents might keep me updated with my country, but how constant is that now? In this new place that is obviously moving in a different direction, how questionable is the midterm paper that I will be handing in in one week?

Since I have been in Hartford, I have not only grown physically distant from the current affairs of Pakistan but also virtually detached myself from my old friends while trying to catch up with my academics, club meetings, or social life with my new people. I now not only realize the distance that I have put between my old and new home but have started cherishing even the bits of familiarity I can get while trying to learn of the current affairs of the U.S. and my new life here. 

The realization itself is not new to say the least—it has always been there—but I never let it process and sink in until now. And now that I have done it, I think of yesterday, I think of the future, but, most of all, I think of my today. What can I do to bridge the gap? Maybe nothing revolutionary for now or any sooner in the future, but what I can do is remember my promise to the world, to my people, but, most of all, to myself. To carry that promise nevertheless to where my path may lead. A promise to do something. A promise to realize. A promise to take a break if needed but never forget the change I wish to see and bring. A promise of a start, no matter how small that might be.

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