Everyone has been there before: that one lonely week during your first semester, marked by intense homesickness you never knew you had in you. It could be missing your family, or it could be the energy of your neighborhood. Perhaps, in the face of NYU dining hall food seven days a week, you miss the ritual of the family dinner.

For NYU students coming from across the country and the world, bringing pieces of home with them to campus helps them feel connected with the places, people and traditions they’ve left behind.

GLS junior Laura Ochoa Rincon does her best to incorporate her Colombian culture into her daily life.

“At school, I try to cook Colombian food as much as possible. I go to mass on important religious holidays even though I’m not entirely religious myself. On really lonely days I like to make empanadas or go to Jackson Heights in Queens and grab some authentic Colombian food.”

To Ochoa Rincon, connecting to her family and heritage is a crucial part of life.

“I like to watch a good movie and talk with my family on WhatsApp, just to let them know about my day,” she said. “It’s the little things that count.”

For CAS junior Arjun Kotwal, physical symbols of home are a great way to bring your background into your daily life.

“I keep some small mementos from India specifically, like a small religious statue or an imitation of the houseboats common to the Kashmir region.”

Of course, incorporating one’s culture into their life isn’t just about remembering where you came from; it’s also a positive way to reflect on the person you want to become. Tisch sophomore Georell Magno believes connecting with his Filipino heritage is an important part of getting older.

“Now that I’m becoming an adult, and am away from home and away from my family, these values and teachings really are a part of me now and will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Magno said. “I try my best to carry these teachings out as best as I can because I really do value them.”

As college is a time to make new connections, NYU students often find inventive ways to explore their background with fellow students. Kotwal finds fulfillment in sharing his culture with others.

“I try and spread around some of its better aspects to others or expose them to it more. One example would be Bollywood movie nights.”

Clubs at NYU also present opportunities for students to bring their backgrounds to a new place. Magno finds comfort through his membership in the International Filipino Association on campus.

“We meet every Wednesday and do certain activities together. Some of these activities have to do with Filipino culture — our Halloween meeting was called ‘Halo-Haloween’ where we dressed up in costumes, had costume contests and served a famous Filipino dessert called halo-halo.”

But sometimes it becomes difficult for students to celebrate their culture with others. For Ochoa Rincon, this is an experience NYU hasn’t given everyone.

“I don’t really share cultural experiences with other students. NYU likes to boast about their diversity but truth be told, I’ve only met two other Latin people during my three years here so far.”

It can be challenging for NYU students to connect with a background made distant by coming to campus, but incorporating rituals, festivities, food and other elements into daily life helps keep students focused on where they’ve come, as well as where they’re going.

Email Hankins Feichter at [email protected]

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