"The engine of the jet plane roared to life and my mom squeezed my hand as I stared out the window. The bright sun, staring me in the eyes, glared out the view of everything I'd known for so long, everything I was leaving behind.
" 'Here we go,' she said, excitement rising in her voice. `First step towards your new life.'
New life. I kept those words close to me through the six-hour plane ride, enclosing them within me as I climbed into a Boston cab, driving down strange new streets, rushing past neon signs, bars and restaurants both flooded with people.
Since I moved to Boston, I've struggled with connecting the East and the West, translating the person who lived at home to the person who lives here ... my home or my narrowed definition of what it means to be home has become my borderland. The person I have been at home with my family and friends for the past 18 years is struggling to find her place across the country, among people and places she's never experienced."
A borderland is something that encloses you within yourself. It contains you, you push against it, and it controls you. Sometimes it wins, sometimes you do.
This month, I was introduced to the borderland of 15 students who were once strangers to me.
Shyness, sexuality, health conditions, language and cultural barriers: It's amazing what we let define us. These strangers are now my friends.
One of my classmates, Magdalena, spoke in class about the difficulties of growing up in an English-speaking household with Latino roots: "I had never considered that simply because I was different from the other Hispanic girls in my class that it somehow made me any less Hispanic."
Another, Autumn, bravely told us about her experience as a bisexual woman and shed light on the societal struggle and personal struggle that goes along with it: "When I sat (my dad) down and told him I was bisexual, he rolled his eyes and told me I was experimenting ... and not to worry, I would be back to normal soon."
Sandrayati, another classmate, explained to us the cultural balance she faced growing up and moving around Indonesia, the Philippines and America: "There's a new term for kids like me. Sociologists call us `Third Culture Kids' (TCK) ... I am a TCK and this paper is my attempt to explore and perhaps define my cultural identity."
I enjoy Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. more than I do any of my other classes at Emerson College.
I've seen my writing change and develop into my own personal voice rather than just some form of my voice attempting to fit inside a rigid infrastructure laid out so nicely by an essay prompt. I've learned my academic life and my personal life are not two separate entities and the sooner I intertwine the two, the more honest my writing will be.
In the essay, we used as reference for our borderlands "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" by Gloria Anzaldua, in which the writer addresses her life as a Chicana woman dealing with multiple languages.
This semester my bilingual writing class has taught me the importance of multiple languages being taught in the classroom, the importance of individuals being able to express themselves in whatever language comes most easily to them.
It's an interesting time to be part of such a class, with the issue of immigration so much on people's minds and bilingual education having been eliminated at so many schools.
The borderland assignment was the first time I found myself stressing over a paper not because of the grade I would receive but because I wanted to do it justice. I wanted every word to be genuine and hold as much weight as the one following it, the one before it.
I wanted my classmates to know that my life has not been very hard and, although I may not have a very large cultural struggle and I may not have to fight for my sexuality, we all fight with something.
For me, at the time I wrote my borderland paper, moving across the country was the biggest thing I was dealing with. And that is perfectly OK.
Victoria Hulbert, a graduate of South High School in Torrance, writes every other Monday about her first year at Emerson College in Boston, Mass. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.