HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE I BELONG

“Go back to where they came from.”

Those seven words have hurted many. Seven words. You can hear them being spit out on the street sometimes. On the internet it seems like they’re everywhere. I read and read. Get annoyed, imagine things I would’ve said but don’t say because I don’t know. It feels like some will never get it anyways. I don’t get offended. Not that anyone ever has said those words directly to me, but they’re said to “people like me”. “People who look like me”. People who to some extent believe in the same as me. People who don’t look Norwegian.

Even though I don’t say a single word online when I read such comments, I get frustrated. So many opinions, so many thoughts about humans they don’t really know, but think they know because we’re from Middle East, North-Africa, Pakistan. Because we’re Muslims. Because some are immigrants, because some can’t speak French or German that well. It’s like being talked about, but not talked to.

I don’t feel offended, nor do I feel discriminated. I feel sad and frustrated on behalf of myself and people who apparently “are like me”. Or maybe not, maybe I’m one of those “successful” stories because I am in several ways integrated physically in the European country I live in. I study, I socialize and I speak Norwegian fluently. I feel frustrated because why does anyone have the need to throw those seven words to someone else, just because they come from another country or have roots from another country and are not ethnical Norwegian or whatsoever? Why does it matter? We have one earth we are supposed to share together. Just because you were born in Norway and have parents whom are Norwegian, does not mean you have the right to be here more than someone who was born in Kenya. Just because your family has been living here for many years, does not mean immigrants can’t be here. We do have countries and boarders, but remember that those are boarders decided by us. And if our boarders are not open, then we should at least open up our hearts.

I don’t know if this is the reality, but it seems like one of the reasons why “they should go back to where they came from” is being “they’re” not Norwegian enough in their eyes. Not American enough, not French enough. Not enough. There are for example many Norwegians out there who say that immigrants need to respect the laws and rules of Norway. If they don’t respect the culture, they can’t expect respect in return. I don’t believe in that kind of respect, but if that’s the case: shouldn’t it go both ways? Shouldn’t the people who already live here also respect the cultures of the immigrants? Apparently it seems like for those people it’s a one-way thing.

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I was born in Norway. I’ve been living there my whole life. I’ve grown up there, went to school there and now I’m studying there. And despite all this and so much more, I don’t feel Norwegian, whatever that means. Should I be shameful? No, why should I? Should I give in to the Norwegian culture and assimilate myself? No, the process should come more naturally. Do I have to be “Norwegian’ and feel Norwegian in order to live in Norway? In order to integrate in the Norwegian society? No, who decised that? Some people, and who said that I have to listen to them. And what on earth does it mean to be” Norwegian”?

Stop telling immigrants and people of other ethnical origin what they should feel like. They should learn the language, they should socialize with the society they’re now a part of but for God’s sake, there’s a lot we should do too but we don’t do it. It’s easy to point at other people, laugh at them and say that it shouldn’t be done like that, but like that instead but only they know wht exactly they have been going through and are going through. Stop preaching about Norwegianness and Americanness and let people decide what they want to feel like, as long as they respect the laws and the rules. You can’t force people to feel a specific way.

No one gets to decide what I should feel like. No one else gets to decide where I belong. That’s something I would know, that’s something I feel. And if I don’t, I’ll hopefully figure it out and if I don’t; well, I know I’m Iqra and I’ll survive.

 

 

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WHEN IT HITS YOU

Doing an exchange semester has been amazing, I`ve met people I`ll remember, seen new places and cities and learned more about myself, as well. I`ll never regret taking this opportunity. Before I left Norway I had so many questions in my head: who am I going to meet? What will I do? Will I feel lonely? What is my new university going to look like? I did kind of imagine it, but I didn`t imagine it`d be so hard to say goodbye to people.

I`m a very emotional person and I strongly dislike bidding farewell to people. Yesterday I said bye to a few exchange students who came to Norway and it was so hard. I mainly have to ways to say goodbye: either I`m quick, I want to get it done so it doesn`t become too sad and I don`t start crying, or I start crying and it becomes hard for me to even say a word. Yesterday I went for the quick way, or else I would run out of words, look at them and start crying. Frankly speaking, I`m crying while I`m writing this because oh, God. This is crazy.

I have a few weeks left of my exchange semester. A few weeks left. I know I`ll try to live them the best way I can, but I`ll keep getting reminded every day that I don`t have much time left. I posted an advertisement online a few days ago and having people come over for a viewing of my place when I`m back in Maastricht will remind me of the short time I have left. Booking my ticket will remind me. Buying certain things because I won`t be there for long will remind me. Having to say goodbye to cool people I`ve met will remind me.

And it`s not like I didn`t know this was going to happen, but sometimes in life you can`t help but cry when it actually hits you that another journey has come to an end.

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Feeling like this already now makes me feel like I`m going to feel a lot worse when I come home forreal and have to go back to the university in Oslo. I`ve had so much fun with my classmates in Maastricht; we just got started. Having the opportunity to plan spontanous trips, knowing that you`re just a bus ride away from big European cities. Cooking for myself. Buying souvenirs. Walking around the streets, knowing that you`re most likely not going to meet anyone you know. Biking instead of having to wait for a train that`s delayed. Meeting people from different countries. Speaking English. Ah, what an adventure. An adventure I`ll miss.

It`s going to be so hard to leave so much behind and begin a new chapter in Norway.

It`s going to be so hard to miss people.

It`s going to be too hard.

It is already so hard. What would I have done if I didn`t have those few weeks to lean on?

DOES IT EVEN MATTER

Sometimes I think that being kind isn`t as good as promoted.

Don`t get me wrong, I recommend people to always be kind, to always treat others right. Kindness is a good thing, but the outcome? It can be pretty… bad sometimes.

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They tell you to always be kind, to treat others nicely, to help people. I haven`t always been kind because someone else has told me – it`s just who I am. It`s just in me. But God, I have been starting to understand more and more why some don`t bother. Or why some give up. Why it might be easier to not give a thing and just walk away, because the reality is that sometimes someone you care so much about, just walks away.

I keep scolding myself for helping people who wouldn`t do the same for me, or who don`t even bother saying a single “thank you” to me. I try to tell myself to not say anything and just let it be, but can I? No, and when I way too many times get treated the way I do I start scolding myself again.

People will say bad things about you when you`re nice, so you might as well just not be nice. 

IT MADE ME THINK OF HER

A few days ago my mum told me about a friend of her, who I also know and who`s mother-in-law was seriously ill. She had cancer.

Yesterday I got to know she died last Thursday.

It all brought me back to when it was my family who were in that situation. When my own grandmother was hospitalized. When the doctors said that we should get ready to be ready. Maybe this is weird to say, but now as I`ve been in that situation I understand it more. My heart now aches more for those who are in a situation like that, because I know what it can be like.

It`s weird how I sometimes find myself knowing where I was at this time two years ago. I can see myself sitting in a chair, next to my grandmother at the hospital. To be at the hospital can be difficult, to see someone you love ill and not being able to do much or anything at all about it can be extremely difficult, so I guess I understand those who don`t want to go to the hospital often. But I`m so glad that I spent that much time with my grandmother, because now I`ll never get to see her again. It was a painful situation to be in, but now is less painful than it could have been, because of the last memories that I have. Because I have less regrets than I could of have had.

When she died, I was shocked. I don`t know if it was because I had spent so much time beside her bed or because I had tried to be as hopeful as I could be. Nobody really knows how much I miss my grandmother. I strongly wish she had stayed longer with us and that I could call her from Maastricht just to ask her how she is.

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I understand what it must be like for my mum`s friend and her family and I`m very sorry for their loss. It can be unbearable to realise that someone who has always been there with you, all of a sudden never will be there with you again. And please take care of each other. It`s when it`s the most difficult that it gets more important that we are there for each other and show each other love. Tell the people you love, that you love them. Give them hugs, give them time. Because before you know it, it could be too late.

SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO BACK AWAY

I`ve been trying to write something, but it just hasn`t seemed like it was worth it. I`d just close the tab and end up doing something else, instead.

It feels a bit weird to say what I`m about to say, because sometimes I think it`s all in my head or that maybe I`m over-doing it. The past days I`ve had days where I just don`t get humans and have found their behaviour too disappointing. Nothing particular has happened, it`s pretty much about the same old things and sometimes I just need to back away a few steps and take a deep breathe. I keep getting “surprised” by what people can be like, how they do certain things without realising that their actions can affect other people. Sometimes I scold myself for thinking so much about others, for the effort I put it trying to help, because of this. I try my best to be there for others and perhaps therefore I get surprised by how people don`t even take into consideration others` feelings. I feel bad if I know I`ve hurted someone unintentionally, so bad that it makes it hard for me to sleep at nights. I wonder how other people sleep so well at night.

This isn`t anything new, but like mentioned earlier I guess I just needed to back away and distance myself from people. I bet I`m not the only one who feels like I don`t know where I have other people at and therefore need sometime alone. The other day I was thinking about how we, after so many years of trying, still haven`t been able to completely grasp human`s nature,  behaviour and way of thinking. That says something about the complexity and perhaps it`s that complexity that gets to me a little more some days.

Anyways, I`ve missed writing on here so I`m glad to be back after a short “break”. ✌️ I`m thankful for having a space where I can share my thoughts and also hopefully inspire other people.

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WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE AN EXCHANGE STUDENT?

It`s been a month since I came to Maastricht, so I thought I`d write a little about what my time here has been like so far. Whenever people ask me “how`s the Netherlands?” or “how are you liking it?”, I don`t exactly know what to say. I`m enjoying my adventure here, it`s nice to be somewhere else and be part of something different and new. New school, new culture, new society and new place. Even if it`s just for a while. But saying those things are somehow not enough, because I feel like it`s hard to explain what it`s like if you haven`t been on an adventure like this yourself, even though we all experience it differently.

Living in Maastricht is chill and cool. It`s a small city and I have everything I need nearby. The buildings and streets look so elegant and I ride my bike everywhere I go, because that`s faster and that`s also how most people get around in the city. I live about fifteen-twenty minutes away from the centrum with the bike, which is something I`m okay with. It`s not like I miss anything, there`s a grocery shop 30 seconds from here that`s pretty much what I need on a daily basis. The people here are also quite helpful. My experience is that not everyone speaks English so well, but that`s not really a big issue.

The best part about doing an exchange semester, is definitely that – travelling. It`s faster and cheaper for me. Whenever I`ve been in Norway and have wanted to visit my family in Germany, I`ve had to take a plane. I could take the ferry and then the train, but that takes more time. It`s either time or money. Being in Holland makes it easier for me to just catch a train to different countries like Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany for a cheap price. I`m definitely going to take advantage of that. The most travelling I`ve ever done, has been this year and it`s only going to get better.

I`m also enjoying the fact that I`m somewhere else. Away from the life I`m used to in Norway. I meet people from different countries with different backgrounds, I have got to know another teaching system and new places. Even though I`m here as a student, the best thing is being able to visit new places and go anywhere without being recognised by anyone. It`s being lost and being okay with it, because that`s the point. Visiting new corner, exploring new things, meeting people you`ve never met before.

I can already tell it`s going to be weird to go back to Oslo.

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STANDING BETWEEN TWO CULTURES

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Ever since I came back from Pakistan, I`ve felt the differences between the Norwegian and the Pakistani culture even more. I remember when I was at the airport in Istanbul in Turkey and I saw Norwegians standing at the gate. I immediately missed something. Maybe the Pakistanis that looked more like me when it came to the clothes. I was wearing a blue kurta with blue tights and a yellow scarf. I didn`t exactly feel like an outsider, but I didn`t feel like I belonged there either.

It can be hard to come from two different cultures – especially if the two cultures in many ways are different. Being in Pakistan I saw the differences more and more. The little things, that weren`t that little anymore. The clothes, the food. Bigger differences, such as the way of thinking of how you`re supposed to behave. I`m not going to say anything about what culture is right or wrong, because I frankly don`t have many answers myself. But if this isn`t about what`s right or wrong, then what is it? What do you do when you`re standing between such different cultures? It`s not even about what I`m supposed to eat or what I`m supposed to wear, I can handle that. What does a person do about the bigger decisions in life?

I don`t know if people who don`t belong to two cultures at the same time can understand, but perhaps they can`t. Perhaps they can. The Pakistani culture and Norwegian culture sometimes seem like two completely different worlds. Being born in Norway but having roots from Pakistan can be difficult, and it definitely is difficult for me right now to figure out something I don`t know what exactly is. What direction do I choose? Which world is the right one for me, or is there a right one in general? And if there isn`t a right and a wrong in this matter, how do I know what to do? I`ve been told to follow the good things from both cultures, but who decides what`s good and bad? Don`t these things depend on the eye that sees? Not only is it difficult because you don`t know what to do.

Sometimes following your own head or even heart can be the most difficult thing to do, because you`re torn between two different worlds. Sometimes listening to yourself can be the hardest thing to do, because you don`t want to let someone you care about down but you might end up doing exactly that no matter what you do.