FINDING COMFORT

IN FOREIGN LAND

- THECLA LI

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Transition can be difficult for anyone. For global students, it can be daunting coming to a new environment, new school, and new culture. Despite the sudden change in pace, many still desire to travel to other countries in order to seek higher education. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 1.1 million international students are enrolled in universities in the United States as of 2017, making up 24% of the enrolled student population.

 

Thecla’s Story

Thecla Li is a second-year international student from Singapore studying journalism at Biola University. She grew up in a Christian family and maintains her faith as she attends the Christian university.

 

“I’m a second generation Christian,” says Li. “My parents are both first generation Christians so they were very convicted by the Lord and they were very sure about Christianity and so, therefore, they wanted to pass it down to their two children which is me and my sister.”

 

Many people view God differently but Thecla’s perspective of God shows her faith in His love.

 

“God’s kind of like the calm in the storm,” says Li. “There’s always chaos in my life or I’m really busy or there’s just a lot of things to do and it’s kind of hard to have stability in that ‘cause I’m not stable, let’s be honest here, and there’s only so much you can depend on your parents. It’s nice to always be like, ‘Oh wait, but there’s God’ and actually mean that.”

 

Life in a New Place

Coming to a new country comes with its ups and downs. Comfort is an ideal many search for and, at times, it can be hard to find it in an unfamiliar place. Thecla shares more insight on how it can be hard being far away from home.

 

“Being so far away from [her parents], it allowed me to miss them during times that were there just unusually,” says Li. “There are friends I can depend on but I can’t intrude on them to always be there to talk and to comfort me whenever I need it. So my mom would always get on the phone and be like, ‘What’s wrong?’”

 

The main problem with living in a new country is that many will not be able to understand your background and will often make false assumptions. For Thecla, this occurred often.

 

“A big struggle was people not really knowing where I’m from,” says Li. “Singapore’s really small and not a lot have heard of it, so they think it’s somewhere in China. So they kind of make assumptions about me or how educated I am because I’m not from the States; they will think I’m not as well-educated or I don’t have access to that good of an education from where I’m from, which is totally wrong.”

Finding Comfort in a New Place

As Christians, we understand how it feels to be outsiders, for our ideals defy those of our modern society. For global students, it can feel discouraging when you do not seem to fit in because of your different background and lack of a familiar face. Thecla encourages Christians and Biola students to help global students in a practical way.

 

“During the holidays, a lot of students can’t go home like Thanksgiving, so housing people is really nice,” says Li. “Just inviting them for dinner and getting to know them better, asking them more about their country. Just spread awareness of different countries and cultures so people don’t get as many assumptions.”

 

As we go through life, we will encounter many different people from varying backgrounds. In Leviticus 19:33-34, it states, “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’” Learning to embrace and show love and hospitality to those who are away from home makes a big difference for those seeking comfort in an unfamiliar land. Just as God brings us comfort in this broken world, we should continue to help those who are seeking to find a home in this country.