By Yen Hyoung Cho

A simple question of “where are you from?” has one answer to some of us, but to others, the answer is a long winded explanation that has molded who we are today.

For many international students who have lived in two or more countries, deliberately or not, the question holds no meaning, or rather holds a different meaning. For those who have found an ideal identity it is a ‘happy ending,’ however for those who have not, we continue to search for the one  place we fit only to run into a brick wall time and time again. Is it where we were born? The country we lived in the longest? Or, where we reside now?

Having lived in five different countries in the life span of twenty years, with Japan being my fifth, I myself have never been able to find the answer. Imagine making friends knowing you will have to part within years to come— accepting the fact that they may not remember who you are because time continues to tick even when your presence are not there. Repeat that process over and over again and soon you lose the warmth of what it means to feel safe and secure in one place.

The road that takes us home-where we belong. Photo by Jenny Lee.

The road that takes us home-where we belong. Photo by Jenny Lee.

Throughout my life I have received many questions regarding where I really think of as ‘home’, even from my own parents. The usual laugh is all that is required to brush the comment off along with a light-hearted remark: “I haven’t quite come to the conclusion yet.”

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary the definition of home means “a place of origin.” But I’m sure there are those who would walk away from this every day definition that can easily be found in the dictionary.

The sense of belonging no longer exists for people who expect departure from the moment of interaction. After many tearful hugs of goodbyes the one thing we really long for is a place to return to, a place we can call home. For people whose ethnicity holds no meaning, the search for a place to belong is a journey to find one’s cultural identity, which is why some of us have come to an easier conclusion; a re-definition of the word.

Some define home as “Somewhere I can relax, and go back to regardless of residence,” and others “Where you can be yourself”. Now it is my turn to depict what home is, a definition to my liking. I define home to be a place where you can feel safe and secure, a place that will welcome me back with open arms.

So, what is your definition of home?

Yen is a 2nd year PEAK student at the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo.


One thought on “Longing for a Home – A Place Where I Can Belong

  1. Pretty insightful.
    My question- does it really matter?
    I’ve lived in a wide range of environments myself and by now, lost pretty much all sense of belonging to a single place. The world is now my home and I think that is how it should be.

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