As we approach the holiday season, students are reflecting on what it means to be far away from their families and friends. Camila Uribe Henao, a Colombian student pursuing a certificate in early childhood education at Whatcom Community College through the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program, writes about the meaning of family in her culture and how she’s found a new family “from all over the world” through the CCI program.
The Afro-Colombian group defines the word “family” as a group of people who share the same biological background and usually the same manners, beliefs, and values. Moreover, they consider “family” to be more than your blood relatives; it includes your surroundings, your friends, and the people who came into your life to create long-term relationships, to support, and love you. In our culture is really important to spend time or do activities with family during holidays or weekends, and visit your relatives even if they live in another city. Therefore, one of the most important things for us is sharing and taking care of others, in a way that everyone can feel supported and guided.
I never imagined I would have a family from all over the world through the CCI program. They have made my life better; I could never regret my choice to come here, or complain about my situation. They make my life valuable because being in a different place is challenging: going to the supermarket is sometimes chaotic, and making plans for weekends isn’t boring when you can stay with them, as if you were with your home family. I know that we really enjoy sharing food and celebrating birthdays together, going to shop or just for a walk around the town, studying and making school projects together, and being supportive when someone is feeling homesick. I am grateful for my friends here because they supported me when I was living without my roommate for almost a month.
I learned that the time I can spend with them improves my English and I will be able to understand American culture and my friends’ cultures. Also, I feel comfortable sharing my culture. I would like to define this great and vast group of amazing people as a family. There is no size, no shape, and no regret to feel part of this group and enjoy this journey of life.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.