I am a graduating senior at Wheaton College studying philosophy and German. This spring, I came to the People’s Resource Center to assist the Saturday morning English conversation class. For two months, I found myself sitting in a classroom with 5-7 English students and Patricia B. who has run the class for years. Most of the students were from Taiwan, although we also have students from mainland China and South America.
One of the things that I appreciated most about these students is how well they preserved their own cultural identity, even as they pursued knowledge of English and were, in many cases, American citizens. They did little things that few Americans might do, such as put their purses behind them on the seat. They taught Patricia and I about their backgrounds every time we met. This does not make them any less American. I believe it shows how those of us who feel comfortable here could spend more time getting to know our neighbors.
These students live in a state of tension. The tension between country of origin and country of residence. It is a tension that I’m familiar with as well.
I came to Wheaton after eight years in the Netherlands, where my family still lives. While I’m very comfortable in the States and feel mostly at home here, there are times when I wonder what on earth I’m doing in America. There are times when this country seems as foreign to me as the Netherlands once did.
Even though my background and current situation is vastly different from my students’, I know what it’s like to be in-between. I have lived in-between for the last twelve years.
In-between is a place full of discovery, pain & joy. It pushes us to the limits of who we are (or who we thought we were) and continually invites us to experience the wonder of the world that has been given to us.
I am proud to know the students in the Saturday class. They are not afraid of the in-between. They are vulnerable and willing to learn. They show bravery and perseverance.
I’m sorry to leave them. They taught me so much.
I wish them all the best.