My Mount Holyoke journey began with a jolt: culture shock. Followed by waves and pangs: homesickness.
I endured a 22-hour flight — my first solo intercontinental journey — and arrived in a country that my Nigerian parents and I knew mainly from maps and news stories. Where I had no parents to move me into my first residence hall room or help me adjust to foods so radically different from what I’d eaten all my life. Where I soon met 2,200 strangers who would become the closest thing I had to family in this new land.
My journey wrapped up with emotions cut from a much different cloth — pride, appreciation, awe, excitement, connections — as fittingly symbolized by the College’s Stoling ceremony.
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
– Muriel Rukeyser
“Scientists say that human beings are made of atoms, but a little bird told me that we are also made of stories.”
– Eduardo Galeano
When I first arrived at Mount Holyoke College in January 2017 — and even before that — I knew that my time here would be about making stories, and about remaking myself through these stories. Gladly, I cannot say this didn’t happen. Because it most certainly did.
The 2016 Carol Hoffmann Collins Global Scholar-in-Residence is Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American author, media presence, and activist. Salbi has dedicated her life to women’s rights and freedom. She is the founder of Women for Women International, a humanitarian organization that distributes aid and microcredit to help women survivors of wars to rebuild their lives. As editor-at-large for Women in the World, a news platform produced in collaboration with the New York Times, she reports on the intersection of Middle Eastern and Western cultures.
“Have you built a restaurant for the school?” a teacher asked on his first visit to the Baale Parwaz Library. I laughed in response. The space—bare except for some newly set up furniture—did not yet give off much of a library feeling. The books had not even been delivered yet. But his question revealed something even greater: a cultural lack of familiarity with an open, peaceful space for studying and collaborating.
This article was originally published in the Hindustan Times Education Supplement.
As more and more students become interested in liberal arts colleges abroad, many discover that some of the best options in the United States are single-sex colleges for women only. Often the mere suggestion of such a learning environment evokes a strong “no” response from parents and students alike. “The real world is coed,” some parents assert. Or, “it doesn’t seem normal to study without boys around,” female applicants argue.