say you join a party. you have fought long and hard to get access to this party as it is highly exclusive and hard to get in. maybe you even had to bend your morals and kiss some places you never wanted to look at in the first place. but then you think that it was all worth it as you now hold that ticket in your hand. you are welcome. you may join.
now imagine two scenarios. the first is that you cannot under any circumstances leave the party once you entered. either because it is a strict rule of the event or you would be embarrassed about what you did to get in and the humiliation would succeed over your actually not enjoying the location or the people or the atmosphere. or say you are not allowed to go home as your parents, your partner or roommates have specifically advised you not to bother coming back after you joined this better-to-be society. either way, say you cannot leave the party under any circumstances. what would you do? it is a wild guess from my side but i would say you make goddamn sure that you a) join the party no matter what it takes to belong to the crowd and b) that you will enjoy it.
now let’s go with the second scenario. imagine there is nothing that holds you at that party if you do not like it. sure, you’d have to live with all the embarrassing things you did to get access to the party without it being worth nothing. maybe you’d even have to live with the fact that you spent a lot of money on this evening for nothing as you are not enjoying the event. what then? well, let’s say you are still so uncomfortable as you feel unwelcome. no body looks at you. when you try to approach them they scuff and turn. when one tries to tell you about the rules of the party you do not understand them as they seem to speak a different language you do not understand which in turn is why you keep breaking the rule which makes all the others even more uncomfortable. they talk about you but not with you. they have fun with each other but not with you. you do not know their behavior. you find it odd and inappropriate. would you still stay? if there is nothing that keeps you other than your pride and your money, would you stay?
recently i was part of a focus group discussing how it feels to be an international student abroad. quickly the debate deviated into the idea of migration and integration. it was fascinating. but there was one thought that hit me the strongest: people, coming from either poor or economically and politically unstable countries have fought long and hard to join the party of the european university and schengen system. they did way more to earn the right to join than i did who just switched the country with no more money or effort being needed. and then i realized that between those other students was another difference as well: there were the ones who fought to get here but who’s ties to home were stable and strong. they had the option of always returning home. and even while they felt comfortable most of the time, as the university is a rather easy start into a new society since it is easy to get to know people and share experiences with them, they did not quite fight as hard to ‘integrate’, to assimilate themselves to the new language and the new culture. the others, however, who saw no chance in ever returning to their country, for whatever reason, studied the language religiously, tried to observe and adopt certain behavior and had this whole other goal next to their university studies to focus on.
i could not help but then relate this student experience onto the bigger topic of migration. and the thought that struck me was that these people, who are not migrating in a socially excepted context like the university, they probably encounter way more hindrances that might make them want to leave as they have very little incentive to stay somewhere they are not comfortable. and the only thing that makes them stay is the negative argumentation of not being able to return home easily or ever. say, what would you do?