“Hey, I’m Aulon! Nice to meet you!”

“Hey, I’m Esteban! Where are you from?”

“I’m from Albania, you?”

“Well, my mother is from Venezuela, my grandfather came from Italy, and my father is from Argentina, but I was born and raised in Colombia, so …” 

This is how my O-week went. Every introduction was unique and every time I grew more and more curious. At the moment, I am in my second year of pursuing my Bachelor in Computer Science , and after one year at Jacobs, I find it challenging to remember my previous years of life outside of the bubble.

Being raised in a small country like Albania, I rarely had the chance of seeing or meeting a foreigner. Despite neighboring countries with different languages, we lacked the traveling culture and mostly spent our vacations within Albania. I recall my 7th grade (middle school) when we started taking geography classes. During that year we were studying world geography and all the maps and globes (no google maps at the time, no google earth, we didn’t even have internet or personal mobile phones) emitted adventurous rays towards us. My friends and I came up with a game to make our class more fun; I separated the states by continents, listed them with their capitals, copied a number of papers and distributed them to my friends. The point of the game was simple: pick a continent, memorize the states and their respective capitals, and ask your opponents about those states. This way, you learned a continent by yourself and all the other continents by playing with your friends. I picked the Americas and I was surprised to see that there were a whole lot more countries than just USA, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, etc. Who would have thought that Barbados is a state, or Antigua & Barbuda? This made me realize that the world is actually bigger than I have ever imagined it to be. So cool!

Years passed and classes did not have those fun games anymore. After 6 months of standardized tests and preparations, my college hunt phase was approaching. Upon stumbling into Jacobs’ website, I noticed the focus on international student body. What does that mean? 114 different nation representatives?  Wow! At the time, I had no idea what that would feel like. Then O-week happened and I saw myself surrounded by different people from all around the world. *She lived her whole life in South America!* *He lived in 4 different African countries!* *She was born in Japan, lived a couple of years in the US, then moved to Mexico, then to the Pacific and now Germany!* I bugged my friends with questions. How is your city? How is life there? What do you eat? How cold/warm is it? Please say something in your language!! And I still do bug them to this day because there is a lot to learn and a lot more to understand. I know phrases in Romanian, Spanish, Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Nepali, Japanese, Farsi and I am trying to memorize more and more.

What is more interesting is that we are so different and yet so alike! Albanians share their culture and a lot of words with other Balkan countries. We and our neighbors have the same lifestyle, same taste and same jokes. Subtle differences make the daily routine very funny; Albanians greet by kissing on the cheek 2 or 4 times, Serbians on the other hand 1 or 3 times and when you want to greet your friend you end up in this embarrassing situation where one is leaning over and the other one goes away. These are the minor things that make you realize how the world is well connected, how we all are part of a large society and how we all must fight for the best of the world. Stop by for a visit and learn more cultural facts!

“I, a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.” – Richard Feynman

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