Centimeters to Inches
Peering out of the plane’s window,
a shy, tanned girl arrived
looking from left to right
trying to find something she’d recognize.
But the “hola”s from home, the kisses on the cheek,
they were all gone.
Replaced by grey handshakes and “how are you doing”s
The shy, tanned girl stepped down from the plane and learned how to laugh
Typing “h”s instead of “j”s so that they could finally understand. 1
She spoke in centimeters but got used to the imperial inches
and screwed up a recipe or two…
How could she know what an ounce of milk was supposed to look?
But as days passed, the shy tanned girl learned
that measurements mean much more than that.
“The amount of space between two points” was not enough to describe
the excruciating pain that she felt in her heart.
Distance is much more than being far away,
It is to know how a welcome hug tastes,
Turning it into your favorite flavor
And doing the impossible to not forget.
Distance is learning not to say goodbye
Because it tastes so bitter and sad,
So instead you mutter a “see you later”,
Grab your bags and try not to look back.
Distance is to have your brain in one country
and leave your heart kilometers behind.
It is to acknowledge that you’ll be that friend that’s never there,
And that now you are the invisible daughter for your mom.
Distance is to gradually lose your accent,
And those words that you used to love.
Replacing them by “lol”s and “omg”s,
That’s what kids say nowadays, no?
Distance is the birthdays through Skype,
The long voice notes through WhatsApp,
The one million “I miss you” through texts,
And the longing for that eternal summer you left.
Distance is to learn how to live on your own,
To become stronger and independent.
It is to have some incredible days, and some really bad ones too, that’s also okay.
It is to feel completely lonely but to suddenly realize
That your people are still there, only a few texts apart.
Which means that you will never be alone,
Because sometimes the heart can travel where your voice can’t go.
Because distance separates bodies, it doesn’t separate hearts.
Because for a few weeks a year
the now-not-so-tanned girl will return,
And with tears in her eyes she’ll say:
MIT is a truly unique place where one meets people from different states as well as very different parts of the world. Despite there being a significant population of international students with whom one can relate to a certain extent, the bond will never be the same as one you would share with someone who was born and raised in your home country. Coming to MIT with your family and friends thousands of kilometers away is not at all easy. It forces one to mature very quickly and to accept the fact that every time you go back home things will be different.
I wrote this poem because, after not being able to go back to my country (Peru) for a year, I began feeling homesick once again. I want to let other international students know that they are not alone in this pain, and that I really admire each and every one of them because it is indeed really tough to suddenly wake up in a completely different culture and face the challenges that MIT gives you. So this is a piece of my heart that I’d like to share with my fellow international students. We can do this, guys!
Antonella Masini is a sophomore majoring in Mechanical Engineering.
- In Spanish the way that you type a laugh is “jajaja” instead of “hahaha”