Where are you from? – and the usual “I don’t know” answer.

Because I have lived, studied and traveled in and to many different places and met many people everywhere, I have naturally been confronted with the usual “So, where’s home?” question more times than I can count. For me, there is no easy answer to that question. In fact, as a child of immigrants, I have always been torn between two countries and two ways of life. A northern and a southern culture, which in many aspects couldn’t be more different from each other. I like to say that I’m European, however that is not a satisfying answer to most people.

I never really felt like a citizen of Luxembourg, my country of birth – because I wasn’t officially a citizen until about a year ago. But also because I grew up in a household that was still very connected to its Italian values and habits. In retrospect, I realize this exposure to different lifestyles offered me a cultural flexibility and understanding that I wouldn’t otherwise have acquired as naturally. However, it wasn’t always easy when I was younger. Between being covertly put in the “foreigner” group in Luxembourg and being quite overtly put into the “foreigner” group in Italy (since I have never actually lived there, besides a few months a year during summer), I really found myself in a situation where I felt I had no place to call home.

When I finished high school and moved to Ohio to go to college, I started understanding that home is where you make it. For me, it’s not about being tied to a place because you were born there or because that is where your family is originally from. It’s being tied to a place that somehow made you do an effort to learn and integrate. It’s a place that you somehow made you own, that shaped you and that you were able to shape in return.

You might ask whether I have found that place yet – the answer would be no. Will I ever find it? Maybe. In the meantime, I like to believe that I am a global citizen of multiple places – because every place I have spent some time in contributed to making me the person I am.

***

Anyone interested in more opinions and ethnographic research about the politics of identity and belonging should check out literature transnationalism and migration studies, for instance Globalization and Belonging: The Politics of Identity in a Changing World (2003) by Sheila Croucher, Professor of American Studies and Political Science at Miami University

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