The International Life

Author name
Aïssa Huysmans, Peer for You Peer Responder, '15

“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, 'This isn't supposed to be happening this way,' and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

It’s even more evident now. Being an international student from Swaziland made me adjust to having two almost entirely separate lives when I became a student at Duke. It was a given, the knowledge that going home would mean returning to an entirely distinct lifestyle, with a different culture, different people and different habits. Still, nothing could have prepared me for returning from abroad in my second semester of my junior year and having to add a third life into the mix. Needless to say, these first weeks back have been a bit of a rollercoaster.

My semester in Montreal opened my eyes to a whole world outside of university. And it was thrilling. A world filled with music, art and culture. A city that was alive and filled with an infinite amount of little quirks; open-air pianos, Sunday afternoon drumming circles, glass-blowing exhibitions… I got drawn back into a society where multi-culturalism was the norm. My day seemed to just be beginning after classes ended, when I could wander the streets to my heart’s content.

Coming back to Duke after this adventure, the problem was that it seemed as though some things had certainly changed or at least become a little unfamiliar, but mostly everything felt the same. I found it somewhat difficult to be back, to feel myself being drawn back into the same routine that I had found was so refreshing to be away from. It’s not an easy adjustment coming back from a semester abroad, where you have a different sense of freedom and endless opportunity. But I’ve found that talking to other people who had come back from similar experiences really helped me voice what I was feeling and start to process how I could keep the new version of me alive.

What I realised was that I needed to change within my own bubble at Duke to incorporate this newfound side of myself. Being abroad allowed me to become my own type of “Yes man/woman” in terms of being up for anything and everything; a kind of “new adventures COME AT ME” kind of attitude! It was refreshing. I felt as though I was unloading the unnecessary baggage and just focusing on what was important to me. I was recreating myself in a new place.

And it’s exactly that feeling that I’m pursuing right now. I decided it was time to clear out the unnecessary commitments and prioritize what makes me happy rather than following the curve that Duke seems to set for us. I keep telling myself: do what you want to do, it is never too late to discover or rediscover what gets your heart racing. And what better time to do it than now.