By Nusrat Ahmed, WiSci STEAM Camp Counselor
In Rwanda, the sky started at my feet. And with the knowledge that I can do anything and go anywhere, I learned to let the sky touch the sea. Because sometimes the water just needs to bring you back home.
As the daughter of two Bengali immigrants, neither of whom went to college, I found myself oriented in a place of great challenge but even greater opportunity. I returned home after a life-changing experience in Rwanda to the remote still paused in its place. In retrospect I think about what a privilege it was to find the extraordinary, ordinary. I've changed but everything at home was how it was left.
I was aware of campers' deep nostalgia from Facebook posts and pictures to vulnerable emails. Words of "what's next?" and "what happens now?" and "what can I do?" I felt the same way. There's something called post-travel blues. It's the return to routine and old concerns. It's missing friends and feelings and places and the type of person you were.
Here is a philosophy that has helped me overcome it. Every challenge is paired with an opportunity. First, when you are home, share your experiences. Do not let return overwhelm you but fuel you. Like a gas station purposed to pump you into present, not for release. Organize your polaroids in a scrapbook and teach your little sister how to weave a bracelet. There is great significance in the balance between home and the world. Life is actually all about balance. If you break, you will be fixed. If you fall, you will get up. If you leave, you will come back, like beads falling off a string and rebounded into another.
All the notes on half-eaten pieces of paper, phone numbers and emails, guidebooks and reminders that you saved from Rwanda, take them out and lay them on your table. Reflect on your experiences and all the potential they have to drive motivation into progress. And on a piece of paper, introspect your life and highlight what is important. Cross out what drains your energy and resources. Mark up anything new you can introduce or old you can replenish in your schedule that will bring you closer to having a purposeful and profitable life. This is what it means to have a mind properly directed.
Our lives are sustained by the interdependency between our homes and the world. If we were a tree, our roots would be at home, branches dangling from windows into worlds. And this idea of dependent orientation serves to drive our purpose from just being to acting. We are now responsible for harvesting what we learned from Rwanda and then spreading it like Dandelion seeds. Paired with this responsibility are the challenges of feeling connected to everything and the incredible opportunity to do something about it.
Nusrat Ahmed is a junior studying Anthropology at Princeton University. She is passionate about children's rights, women empowerment, and youth activism. Her guilty pleasures are Swedish fish, cherry coke, and reality TV.