“How did you get here?” is a rich and complex question. Asked in a tone of suspicion at, say, an airport or a store, it may feel like a challenge or even a threat: “You don’t look like you belong here. How and why are you here?” Asked over a cup of coffee in a friendly tone of voice, it will probably feel like an invitation: “Tell me more about yourself. What brought you to this place at this time doing what you are doing?”
Every Scholars annual theme aims to create conversation and learning around a significant topic. This year’s theme, “Migrations: Populations and Practices on the Move,” could spark an infinite variety of conversations and plenty of valuable learning by focusing on the question, “How did you get here?”
Modern life, particularly in the United States, is characterized by a high degree of mobility. In the U.S., a person moves an average of 11.4 times over the course of a lifetime. For many of us, “How did you get here?” can elicit a long and winding narrative of multiple migrations, moves that required constant adjustments to new environments and circumstances.
Take my own upbringing, for example. I grew up in Indiana, but by the time I graduated from high school I had lived in four different towns across the state. My father worked for Sears. Every time he got promoted, he would get transferred to another store, which required our family of six to pick up and move to a new town.
I learned how to make friends quickly and to change my accent to sound more or less like everybody else. And my mom worked hard to convince us that each new town was a paradise and that every place we’d just left was a dump. I don’t blame her. It can’t have been easy to help four kids figure out how to navigate the perils of growing up when their schools and social worlds were constantly changing.
I think of my experience as a form of corporate migration that is not unlike what my friends from military families experienced—except that they lived in places like Thailand and Japan while I explored the shopping malls of Clarksville, Kokomo, Valparaiso, and South Bend!
Sharing your story
Everyone has a migration story, whether it’s the story of how you got from your hometown to the University of Maryland or the older story of how your family found its way to the United States from some other part of the world. That story, whether it’s happy or harrowing, rooted in opportunity or oppression, is an important part of who you are.
Sharing such stories can be a powerful way to deepen our connections to other people and enhance our ability to understand and navigate the many forms of difference we encounter in culturally mixed spaces like the university. At Convocation in September, we invited five current and former Scholars students to briefly share stories of how they got here.
This month, we invite everyone in the Scholars community to share their stories at our migrations dialogue event, “Where Are You Really From? Student stories of how they got here.” This event—which will be primarily led by student facilitators—will take place Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in 1205 Cambridge Community Center.
I’m looking forward to learning more about our students, and our “Migrations” theme, as we explore the many facets of an endlessly fascinating question: “How did you get here?”
Come to "Where Are You Really From? Student stories of how they got here," Thursday, Feb. 21, 7–8:30 p.m., 1205 Cambridge Community Center.
About the author:
Marilee Lindemann, associate professor of English, joined College Park Scholars as Executive Director in July 2014. Prior to Scholars, Professor Lindemann served as Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Program, in the Office of Undergraduate Studies from 2002-2013.