-Bethani Thomas, Opinions Editor
I think it is safe to say that the majority of you do not speak English as your first language, but that probably half of you speak more than one language or dialect. Because I know you are well acquainted with language learning, and that you will be doing a lot of it during your time here, I want to take a moment to teach you a word in French: Dépaysé. It is pronounced duh-pay-see, and is an adjective. It describes something or someone situated in unfamiliar surroundings, removed from its element or country, or displaced. In a way, you are dépaysé here at Mississippi College, so I want to be one of the first to publicly welcome you.
When I came to this school three years ago, I was very excited for the new adventure, but I was also dépaysé. Although I am American by blood and by birth, I moved away from my family and my “home” to attend this university. I had lived in Guatemala, a Central American country, for almost 11 years before I moved back to America in 2011. I was eight years old when I became “displaced” for the first time. I was definitely not in familiar surroundings as a white-skinned, blue-eyed, English-speaking girl among dark-skinned, dark-eyed, Spanish-speaking natives.
My family became missionaries to a Mayan people group in a primitive village and there I was even more out of place. But as the years went by I became familiar with the cultural differences. I slowly learned the language and started to feel a sense of home. At 18 years old I was pulled out of this “inconsistent” home, and put back in my “true” environment. It was weird. I looked like everyone here, I talked like everyone here, I seemed to act like everyone here, but again I felt dépaysé and out of place.
It wasn’t too hard though to fit in and every big change takes time. Sometimes I felt like it was not fair, that I was misunderstood and too different to explain. But slowly I realized that all of the students around me were also going through big changes and adjustments. They had just left their homes too and were out on their own. Obviously, it is very different to leave home in an airplane across time zones than it is leaving home in a car. And I cannot imagine how hard it is to speak a different language all of the time; eat different food all of the time; and be surrounded by very different people all of the time, like all of you. But, even then, I am writing this to say: we welcome you.
We want you, from all the edges of the World, all backgrounds and languages, and all colors and cultures, to adjust here and find a sense of belonging and a feeling of home. We hope you search for not only knowledge, but also for an experience. We hope that you meet not only foreigners, but also friends. But more than anything, we pray that you see not only a culture, but a true understanding of the foundation of our school, which is Jesus Christ, who I know has purpose in your visit here, whether short or long.
Welcome to Mississippi College, a Christian University.