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Focus International Voices

Farewell Speech from an International Student

Illustration Credit: Vy Le

“Farewell” and “welcome” are terms we use during a transition where one moves from an old environment to a new environment. As most college students will tell you, the transition is terrifying. The past four years have been where I have made the most transitions in my life. Four different countries and constantly moving every six months, with the longest stay in one place only being 10 months.  Trust me when I say I have mastered the art of goodbye throughout my college years. In fact, it might be the only thing I’ve learned in college.

It started with a goodbye to my mom at the airport, telling her that for the next four years, I won’t be present much in her daily life. It was the first time I left for  the United States to start my higher education. Then there were all the times I had to say goodbye to my friends after my study abroad programs in China, Japan and Los Angeles knowing I might not see some of them ever again. Every time I carried two large suitcases with all my belongings, surely another goodbye would follow.

In a new environment where you are the outsider with an expiration date stamped on your passport, you have a lot to think about. There is the desire to fit in, to conform, and to adapt as quickly as possible to the new environment because you don’t want to feel lost. Moving further than the desire to fit in is to have a voice. To be heard by the people around you. Having a voice that is being heard is the sign that you are being represented within the environment; in other words it’s an even greater sense of belonging.

For international students, we always have to deal with the impermanence of time – the feeling that it’s going to end before anything even starts. No party lasts forever! Yet, you also learn the value of the moment and learn to say goodbye better than others.

By the time this article has been published, I can proudly say I have spent my time well, especially by leading this organization. It is an organization that stands for those with an impermanent time in the U.S,  -publishing unique stories from all around the world. More  importantly it is an organization that gives international students a voice. Voices that I and Emma have helped to amplify using this platform. It is amazing how diverse and different these voices are. Yet they have one thing in common; they all speak with no constraint, they can speak Freely.  

I do have to admit, to say that we are able to represent everyone is an understatement and immature, but to say that we are not trying to is a cynical statement. For those members who feel they have been represented, I truly thank you for giving me the chance to amplify your story. And for those who didn’t feel they are,  I’m even more grateful because you still decided to stick with Freely even when Freely didn’t represent you. My hope that whoever gave support to us while running Freely will do the same things when our successors Vivian – President and Haajrah- Chief editor, will be further empowered to carry on this task.

For now, this is another farewell, this time to Freely, though I should be used to that by now but it is still difficult to say goodbye each time. To say goodbye to a place where you feel you truly belonged and to move forward to a new chapter of life full of uncertainty. Nevertheless, it’s something we have to do because you need to give the next generation a chance to make a contribution. And because my two suitcases are starting to fidget as well. It’s a difficult goodbye!   

I love a difficult goodbye, it’s an indicator that you are attached and you have invested a lot into it. A difficult goodbye is a sign that you have tried your best to make the most of your time. So no, I didn’t just learn to say goodbye from college, I have learned to listen to others, learn to talk with others (in different languages too), learned to laugh and cry, but most importantly to be present for others. So how do you make a good farewell speech? Make sure you did everything you possibly can for the people you care about. Hence, you can proudly say to them – goodbye!