By Rahul Garg ‘13
While waiting in line to clear U.S. Customs at Newark Liberty International Airport, I glanced at the sign above me that said “Welcome home” referring to U.S. citizens. Since I am a U.S. citizen, I guess the sign applies to me. But having spent the summer in India, I felt a sense of contradiction, “why do I feel as though I had just left home, yet at the same time had arrived home?”
As I waited in line, I tried to rationalize what was running through my mind. Did I just come home or did I leave my home and have now entered a foreign country? As summer begins, T-birds scatter across the globe to travel, do internships, and participate in academic programs. I thought what criteria do other T-birds use to call a place “home”? Is it just an address? If so, is it a permanent or temporary address? Is home the country to which you are a citizen of? What if you are a citizen of more than one country? Is home the country of the passport that you carry? How about where most of your family and loved ones live? The string of questions continued.
Still standing in line, I began to flip through my passport looking at the stamps of the countries that I had visited and thought to myself, “Well regardless of the length of stay in each of these countries, all of them at one point represented a home.” I reflected upon my experience in India and how India was a home to me. During my stay, I met with current T-birds as well as alums. I also had the opportunity to meet with a few of the new incoming T-birds to share my first-year experience and answer questions regarding what to expect in the coming months. Sharing with them my thoughts on what make Thunderbird and its students unique, I referred to one of the school’s statistics symbolizing the strength and breadth of its network, “over 40,000 alumni in a 140 countries”.
Just as I was summoned to the podium by the customs officer, I recalled our school’s motto, a quote by Socrates, “I am neither an Athenian nor a Greek, but a Citizen of the World”. I guess anywhere in the world where a T-bird lives can be considered home by another T-bird.
As the customs officer handed me my documentation, and said “Welcome home”, I thanked him and thought to myself, “I never left.”