When I was only but eleven years old, my mum decided she needed change. New country, new people, new culture, but did this imply she also needed a new identity?
Transitioning from Brazil to Australia at such a young age, gave me the best of both worlds, and it still does. But it wasn’t easy. Apart from being thrown at the deep end, a whole new school, with uniforms, with two breaks, at weird hours of the day, not a single person who spoke anything remotely close to Portuguese. I struggled.
I was torn between growing up with a Brazilian culture or an Aussie one, it felt as if I was judged or frowned upon if I had both. I had to be careful and separate both of these worlds apart and live them singly one at a time. But, why? Where was my multiculturalism? Did multiculturalism simply mean leaving your country and learning how to live in a host country, their way and letting your old values and traditions fall behind? Did it mean leaving my country behind but forcing my values and traditions upon my new host country? Why was there nothing in between these two drastic solutions.
Another eleven years on and I consider myself both very Australian and very Brazilian. I eat vegemite while I watch football (real football), and this is how I’ve learnt to deal with both of my nationalities, combing them to fit me. I will never be real Australian in the eyes of my Aussie mates, but I will also never be real Brazilian in the eyes of my Brazilian family, because I will never be 100% just like them.
It wasn’t until I read International education as self-formation as part of one of my readings that I began to understand what has happened to me as an international student and where the education system has gone wrong.
He explains how international students make themselves. We do so under conditions that we do not fully control, and within a web of different social relations that affects us.
We must learn to do so in a world of plural identities in which more than one self is possible and this is where we can mix and match who we want to be. We choose who we become. We have chosen to have this choice. Interviews suggest that many international students cross borders to become different. They want to change themselves in the country of education, which is what my mother did by leaving Brazil, she wanted to grow and re-invent herself and give me the chance to create who I wanted to be.
Unfortunately in a cross-country world of education, international education is mostly understood as a process of ‘adjustment’ or ‘acculturation’ to the requirements and habits of the host country.
In this case we as international students are made to have an orderly progression from home identity to host country identity. The host country culture is normalized without question. And culture becomes seen my us and society as a barrier that must be broken.
We move because we want to change, but does mean we wish to forget what we were taught or where we come from.
Through this reading I’ve realized that we are constantly changing and defining ourselves, we should be opened to new values and ways of life to choose from and not be discriminated for it.
The education system should embrace the opportunity to learn from us as international students, we have so much unique knowledge that can be beneficial to others, we do not want to change the culture of the host country, we would simple like to add our unique identity to it.
‘We keep what we have, by giving it away’. – The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography