We Belong Here event invites students to share on experiences abroad

Stephanie Adeline

UT alumna Rebecca Dockall said she recognized her privilege while running an errand in India.

“I wanted something American … so I was thinking I could get a cucumber,” said Dockall, who was abroad working for a nonprofit at the time. “Just cut up cucumbers, put olive oil and make a salad … (and then) I see a woman that doesn’t have arms and legs, and it was just a humbling moment. I’m getting upset that I don’t have a cucumber, but this woman doesn’t even have arms.”

Dockall was one of the eight who came to tell stories about international experiences at We Belong Here, an event hosted Tuesday by the International Office as part of the International Education Week.

Priscilla Lee, an international student advisor and International Education Week committee member, said the purpose of the event is to share experiences that come with spending time outside of the U.S., whether it be in one’s country of origin or as a study abroad trip.

“A hundred people can see the same thing but tell the story differently,” Lee said. “We hope (students) leave wanting to travel or study abroad or wanting to even meet the international student that’s next to you in class and listen for other people’s stories, not just what you see on the outside.”

Nelson Millan Nales is an English senior from Puerto Rico who moved to the U.S. when he was four. He shared his story about feeling like an outsider when he first came to the U.S., but even more so when he visited Puerto Rico after living in the U.S.

“While you were here in America building a better life for yourselves … there are events and moments in your family’s life that created a relationship and strengthened it,” Millan Nales said. “If you’re not there to experience it, what do you go back to?”

Millan Nales said listening to the other stories made him realize that the problem of not belonging is often a universal feeling.

“I actually know a lot of these people, but I haven’t heard … how they felt lonely and they didn’t belong,” Millan Nales said. “It’s heartbreaking because it’s something that we all feel … so it’s just beautiful to see different perspectives ultimately came together to represent the same thing.”