By Emerald Anthony
“Wilson College and Chambersburg has been really welcoming and accepting.” – It is the first statement that I make when people ask me about my experience so far on campus. Before boarding my flight to the Unites States, I was a person of mixed emotions with regards to what the U.S. could or could not be for me. Especially when it came to people and their behavior. I had been warned that people here prefer to be left alone when dealing with emotional or psychological dilemmas. More so, personal space and the ability to respect boundaries is something everybody expects from you here, without needing to explicitly say so.
Even though all these aspects remain true, they are low-key. What is evident is the fact that the community at Wilson, and the Chambersburg community in general, is one that embraces. Despite busy lives and an infinite race to get work done in time – which is normal in every corner of the world and helpful in the sense that it allows you to respect other peoples’ time and presence – the community makes efforts to connect with each other for a range of occasions and purposes. People here often contribute to each other’s experiences, without seeking reward for themselves. They go out of their way to facilitate you, guide you, comfort you and to stand by your side.
Crystal Lantz, the advisor and facilitator for international students at Wilson College, is a gem of a person. She does not contain herself to the bounds of her duties and responsibilities as part of her job and she goes beyond to ensure that international students on campus are in the best of health, at ease and always feel comfortable to approach her. She has been there for me since day one, and whenever things go awry and I find myself in the middle of nowhere, the first person that comes to mind is Crystal. She always proves helpful in ways I cannot fully express. Also, her office has always been open for snacks, candies, plants and even a space for venting, which makes it more like my happy place, or what I would otherwise call home.
I remember when our group of international students first met Mary Beth and she kept stressing the fact that we should use our resources to the fullest. Soon after, I encountered Chaplain Derek, who hasn’t just been helpful in connecting me with Luna for some emotional therapy, but also very helpful in regaining spiritual mindfulness through his Bible study sessions. In addition, he has been a great resource for finding my way through community service.
I also got in touch with Dave Miller at the IT department who has been a blessing. I was under the impression that a laptop could only be borrowed for a few hours in the library, and I decided to reach out about this. I approached him to find out if there was a possibility borrowing one for a longer period of time. As it turns out, all that was needed was a simple explanation! The process was extremely fluid and stress-free and in approximately five minutes I was able to check-out a laptop for the semester. Similarly, I also learned through James D’Annibale at the library that I am able to scan a few pages and send them quickly to my email, which I can print or read with ease on my laptop.
Even through the perils of dorm life, the Wilson Community is ready to help. I washed a pale-yellow shirt with a pair of blue socks and I was almost about to cry because I stained my new shirt. My RA, Amanda, was generous and let me borrow her stain-remover pen. It did eradicate some of the color, and it all got better after a second wash.
Things are not inherently complicated or tough – We make them to be. I have loads of experiences to share, but the anecdotes I listed above are actions or approaches that I believe many people would never consider taking in the first place. Especially when they feel like they are alien and do not belong. That feeling is a false boundary that you or I may unconsciously and negatively be creating for ourselves. Wilson people treat you just the same, whether you are a local student, a former one, a freshman, an exchange student or an international student. It all depends on you – you are the channel of ease for yourself. No one else can pave a smoother way for you to tread upon. If you use your resources wisely and enthusiastically, I believe that things eventually fall into place. At least this holds true in a place as small, intimate and interconnected as Wilson; if it doesn’t fall into place, then maybe you aren’t doing it right!