Now, for all of those who are asking themselves “wouldn’t that make her an international student?”, I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. Let’s start off by getting a few things clear, I was born in Beirut, Lebanon and have spent my whole life moving around from country to country. My father is Lebanese and my mother is American, which allowed me to hold a dual citizenship for both of the countries. Every other summer, my family and I would make the grueling 24+ hour trip to the States to visit family members and so on. While I never actually resided in the States, I am still considered an American Citizen.
Although I consider Texas to be my home state, I knew that even if I did attend an “in state” university, I would be filed as an out-of-state student. While applying to universities, I had the choice of categorizing myself as an international student by using my Lebanese passport; however, I ultimately chose to identify as an out-of-state student, something that felt deeply unfamiliar.
During the summer before my 11th grade of high school, I attended a Georgetown University course on law, where I had the chance to meet a variety of interesting people from all over the world. As an international student at heart, hearing the words “from all over the world” immediately strikes a heartstring because it brings about an assumption that I’ll be surrounded by people like me. While there were a considerable amount of international students, I befriended girls from almost every state, diverging from my initial idea of surrounding myself with people who could recognize where the country Bahrain was in the world (FYI-it’s a tiny island off the coast of Saudi Arabia and even Middle-Eastern people struggle to locate Bahrain). As an out-of-state student myself, there was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be able to fit in with them.
Some of my favorite memories are from the days I spent with the genuine friends I made over that summer; however, at times, there was an implicit disconnect. It was almost like my international identity was fighting against the out of state student I was trying to become. Relating to people’s experiences and backgrounds and expecting them to relate to mine proved to be a real challenge in itself, as I had to explain the limitations of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia while they’d be discussing passing their driver’s tests. It was almost comical to compare the two instances with one another, where all of us were meant to identify with another because we’re exactly the same on paper (Out-of-state student), yet our lives couldn’t be more different.
While I love being able to hold the double nationality, I think it’s at times stressful and inconvenient because of that inability to truly bond over similar experiences with people who are from out-of-state or who are purely International students. On certain days, I really do feel like I’m in a state of identity limbo, one in which I can never truly escape because of my experiences and nationalities.
In spite of the fact that I encounter moments of confusion whilst trying to grapple onto one identity, these moments can also serve as an advantage in certain cases, as I find myself relating to bits and pieces of different people’s moments, whether they’re from the state of Illinois, or the country of Kazakhstan. It almost transforms itself into a superpower instead of a weakness, one in which I can embody in order to find that unfamiliar connection with people who are equally struggling with their own identities, even if they’ve only lived in one country their entire lives.