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  • Writer's pictureJénine Shepherd

How to retain your culture| Part 2: Tips

“Dem damn farrin pickney deh yuh see! All she, watch har nuh, how she likkle an so hype! She memba weh si cum fram?” (These damn students who study abroad! Even her, look at her, how she just small and so hype! Does she remember where she came from?”)

Ah the eternal predicament almost every international student finds themself in! People from back home will often call you out on the slightest changes in your behaviour due to your time in a foreign country. They will call you “hype” if you act like you’re better than them because you’re studying abroad. Let me make this absolutely clear: I DO NOT CONDONE THIS TYPE OF BEHAVIOUR! “Humble yourself before you stumble” is what I always say.

Now on another note, a long time mi likkle and hype enuh! (Now on another note, I’ve always been small in stature and hype). But one thing you can’t beat out of me is my love for Jamaica. I swear I’d marry the island if I could. The kind of “hype” I’m referring to here is the good kind, the kind synonymous with clout. I'm heading into my third year at Amherst College, one of the top liberal arts college in the USA and this is a lesson that I really had to learn before I could do anything else. Everyone wants to act tough and pretend that they don't need their families because they're going to go off and conquer new territory. Dem chest high cah dem get likkle freedom (Their chests are high because they got a little freedom). NOT I! I bawl ici (I cried so much, you see). Mi all call mi mumma a four inna di mawning an a beg har fi send likkle ackee and dumpling come (I even called my mother at four in the morning begging her to send me some ackee and dumplings). Nope! I'm a child and I want my Jamaican sun, food and beaches right now!

I've come to find that the more you try to act tough, the harder the homesickness hits you and trust me when I say it hit me like a bus. The more time I spend away from home is the more I realize how amazing home is. Who in their right mind decides to toss Jamaica aside with all its natural beauty for a life where brick and concrete is all you see, and you have to go swim in a lake but you can only do that when the cowl decide fi nuh bite yuh pon yuh batty (the cold decides to not bite you on your keister)? ANSWER: ME and all the other crazy international students from warm countries. So for all you people who aren't so right in the head like me, I'm going to drop some points on how exactly you keep in touch with your culture.


Decorate your room with some things that remind you of home.

Jenine is standing on her bed in a t-shirt and shorts and is pointing to her Jamaican flag on her wall.
Anderson,C.,2016.My Freshman Year. [photograph]. Personal photo collection. Amherst College.

When you walk into my room, the first thing you see is my Jamaican flag. It's right above my bed so it's the first thing I see every morning I wake up and the last thing I see when I go to sleep.

Source: Anderson,C. (Photograph) (2016). Freshman Year. Amherst College

Pictures of me and my mother hang on my wall so I can see her face when I walk around my room. You can even put familiar smells in your room. If yuh wah fi even spray yuh granny kus kus or even rub up inna har bengay gwaan thruu (If you even want to spay your grandma's perfume or even rub yourself down with her Bengay,go for it).

Source: McCook,R. (Photograph) (2016). Independence Day. Jamaica

Keep in touch with people from the mainland.

Source: (Photograph) (2018). My 20th Birthday. 100 Hope Road.

I cannot stress this point enough! This includes your friends and family back home, people in the diaspora as well as people on campus. Your friends back home will not have been affected by the new culture so you can get the true cultural experience through them. They have the right accent and are current on your nation's affairs. They'll help to keep you grounded. Jus cause yuh reach a farrin no mean yuh fi dash dem weh (Just because you're abroad doesn't mean that you should throw away your old friends). As for the persons on campus from your mainland or the persons from the diaspora (could be persons who live in the area your school is located), these are the people you can break out into your language with. These are the people who will be the best at understanding exactly what you're going through and can even offer advice to you based on methods that worked for them. You could even join your campus' student union that caters to your culture. Organize linkups! The Jamaicans at Amherst College were some of the first people on campus to welcome me and would make offers to drop by with some of their Jamaican stash, which brings me to my next point.

Stock up on food from your culture.

Source: McAnuff,C. (Photograph) (2016). Ackee & Saltfish with Fried Dumplings. Original Flava.

Go buy out miss chin shop! "Yes mi wah bout fifty grace cornmeal parridge and ten can a makkrel, and 12 tin a carn beef. Ow much fi yuh gizzada?" (Yes I want about fifty Grace cornmeal porridges and ten cans of mackerel and twelve tins of corned beef. How much for your gizzadas?) A linkup with people from your country could just be a shopping trip.

Blast that dancehall, reggae or soca.

Source: McCook,R. (Photograph) (2018). Carnival 2018. Jamaica.

Have no apologies for your behaviour even if it's 3 am! Okay, maybe not 3 am. We can't have our names out in these streets as THOSE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. I play my local music when I shower, when I'm in my room (this is probably why I'm late for almost everything because I'm too busy wukking up mi waist (working up my waist) but it's all good because the music puts me in a mood that helps me to feel like I can power through all of my problems).

Keep current on all the news and latest trends from your country

Download the apps for your country's newspapers! Watch videos and read articles from entertainment and lifestyle bloggers to see what's in. This will make the transition back to your culture upon your return to your country easier. You won't feel as out of the loop. Your friends on the mainland can really help you out on this one.


Source: (Photograph) (2018). Horseback Ride. Sandy Bay.

This is the most obvious one! However, I acknowledge that this might not be possible for many international students because the last time I checked, plane tickets were not cheap. If you can afford to do this, DO IT! Going home is far better than any of the other tips I could give you. At home you get the real deal. You're no longer eating those Golden Krust patties. You're now a Tastee patty citizen.

Well gents, until next time! Memba weh mi tell unnu fi do. Me no wah see nobaddy a wear no uggs inna Jamaica hot summa time! (Remember what I told you all to do! I don't want to see anyone wearing uggs in the hot Jamaican summer!)

Special thanks to Jovanté Anderson, student at Lafayette College and Kristina Phillpotts-Brown, graduate of Princeton University.

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