My name is Anushka Saraswat. Originally from India, but having lived in Cameroon and Senegal, Sterling College here in the United States is my fourth destination, but not the last. I am now in my second semester, and having spent about 8 months away from the places I know best, I would love to share some of the realities of going to school far from home.
Welcome to Part I of my five-part series on my life as an international student of color living in northeast Vermont.
Far From Home: Part I
While lots of places across the world have four conventional seasons, Vermont, with its varied and ever-changing landscape, prides itself on having 6 unique seasons: winter, mud season, spring, summer, fall, and stick season.
With the vibrant red and yellow leaves starting to fall, I’m sad that my first fall in Vermont is already coming to an end. Coming from the tropics, fall (or autumn, as we call it at home on the other side of the world) isn’t a prominent season. The broad-leaved evergreen trees of the tropics are not subjected to harsh cold conditions and hence don’t need to change colors. I wouldn’t be able to imagine Neem or Palm trees turning orange or red. Hence, coming back on campus from home this semester, I was most excited to witness and experience the different colors and falling of leaves during the season. When the foliage was at its peak, I took every opportunity that came my way to drive down to Morrisville or Burlington in order to gaze at the lanes of colorful trees which made it look like one of those oil paintings of mountains. Not only were the aesthetics astounding but the sound of the crunch when walking on the fallen leaves gave me a sensation I had never felt in my life. Having read a lot about the popularity of the fall season in Vermont before coming here, I can definitely say that I wasn’t disappointed.
Sadly, I can already see the trees transitioning to how they were when I first arrived at Sterling in January for the Spring semester. With all the leaves on the ground and the trees standing prickly, I’ve been told this period is called “stick season”. The sun has started setting earlier day by day which makes me feel melancholic and nostalgic. The darkness at 5 o’ clock in the evening is daunting. Daylight savings still confuses me and has made me an hour further away from the people I need to stay in contact with, in time difference. Recently, people around me have started predicting when the first snowfall will hit the ground, and hearing that sends shivers down my spine. Having last lived in the coastal city of Dakar and experiencing snow for the second time coming to Craftsbury, the winter here scares me.
I still remember the day I arrived on campus, I was welcomed by a snow blizzard and 2 feet of snow. And that’s how my journey at Sterling began, with feelings of nervousness and anxiety, but also excitement. Never in my life had I worn so many layers of clothing as here during winter. I yearned for days of sunshine that would somehow remind me of my warm days at the sandy beaches of Senegal where winter is just a namesake and the temperature doesn’t go below 15 degrees C ( 60 degrees F). Wearing gloves and boots was new to me, and I still have trouble letting go of my flip flops … I keep them close and wear them on any lucky days of warmth.
Spending the summer at home in Senegal’s high temperatures, the two weeks I spent here before the semester started was a bit of a relief for me. Having mostly lived in places with scorching heat during summer, the little taste of summer that I experienced on campus was refreshing. I went from swimming in the ocean and spending time at the beach to swimming in lakes amidst the forest. Sometimes I wish I could just stop the weather changes and go back to that warmer period of walking barefoot on moist grass around trees with fresh, green leaves. Vermont summer is something that I would love to experience in full. Compared to the concrete jungles I’ve lived in, experiencing the beauty of the forests and mountains during peak summer in Vermont would be incredible.
Living near the equator, changing seasons never was at the forefront of discussion or a dictator of my mood. With Vermont having 6 seasons every year, adjusting to seasonal change has been a huge part of my learning experience. Even though I dread the winters, and the seasons are all somehow different than those in the countries where I’ve lived, the view every season in Craftsbury is so magnificent. Not only the vibrant colors of fall, but the shining white snow of winter is full of wonder. I might not be ready for winter just yet, but I am definitely excited to witness the first snowfall of the season.
Stay tuned for my next blog post about our Diwali celebration! — Anushka