Name: Katarina Fenn
Major: Elementary education with an English focus and a minor in theater
Country of Origin: Originally born in the U.S., but I moved to Honduras when I was 10
Please describe aspects of your culture that are different from here:
One of the biggest differences is that, in Honduras, people are more indirect when speaking, while in the U.S. everyone is very direct. Also, in Honduras there is no real sense of time; it's more of a you-get-there-when-you-get-there mentality, compared to the U.S. where you have a start and finish time. Honduras is a very relational place, so relationships are incredibly important. This is why time is not an issue and why being indirect is better at times (because the relationship is more important than figuring out if you'll come to a certain event and at what time).
What do you miss from home?
I miss my family most of all. I also miss the warm weather, the food and hearing Spanish all around me. I miss the coffee, too.
What’s hard about living so far away?
Being apart from my family is the hardest thing. I love them a lot, and not having five people around me and living with me is odd and difficult. My first year I didn't really struggle with homesickness, but this year it hit me pretty hard. Other people get to go home for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the summer. I only got to go home at Christmas time last year, and I don't know when the next time will be. Not knowing when I'll go home or see my family is hard; I try not to think about it, but it's in the back of my mind quite often.
What do you feel Calvin College and its student body do well with being inclusive and culturally respectful?
I love that Calvin has ISAC (International Student Association Committee) to help the international community. I loved International Passport, and I love all that this organization does to help us feel included in the system. I especially love that I can find other kids like me (TCKs, Third Culture Kids) and identify with them. I love that there are specific student organizations that help you connect with people from your specific country. I'm part of LASA (Latin American Student Association), which is fantastic because then I can come and feel a piece of home away from home.
What do you feel Calvin College and its student body do poorly about being inclusive and culturally respectful?
I feel that they should help include TCKs more. Sometimes, it is hard for me because I don't belong with the Americans and I don't belong with the international group. I'm in between the two groups. I feel that, while what they do now is great, at times I have feelings that I don't belong anywhere. I'm not sure if that can be helped or not, but if it could be I would love to see something being done to help that feeling of being unwanted.
Have you ever felt left out or not included based on your culture?
Kind of. Because I'm in the middle group, many people never expect me to be from Honduras. When I say something that may seem dumb to Americans, it's actually something I don't know, not because I’m actually dumb. Since I am a mix of cultures, I feel out of place a lot. It's hard to find where I belong when I'm American, but at the same time, not. It's weird.
What are some things you want people at Calvin to know about your culture and the life of an international student?
I want people to not jump to conclusions when someone in the class doesn't understand something. Even if they look like they've lived in the U.S. or Michigan all their life, they might not have. Just because they don't know what Meijer is or what it means when someone says they are "pooped," that doesn't necessarily mean they are dumb. They could, instead, be from another country and culture. I also feel that everyone should know that Honduras is wonderful and beautiful! Everyone needs to try baleadas (an amazing Honduran dish) and Honduran coffee!