Home magazine: Exploring the complexity of home for students


The logo for Home is a hermit crab representing how home can be wherever you make it and is not only one place. Photo courtesy of Home magazine.

Bergen Schmidt

The idea of home holds a dear place in many hearts, and it has a different meaning for different people. Home magazine strives to explore the complexity of the idea of home from the perspective of students from international backgrounds.

For Por Eiamkanchanalai ’21 and Mai Moua Thao ’22, two members of Home magazine’s team, Home is a place for students from international backgrounds to express themselves. “Students from international backgrounds” is a phrase Home magazine’s team came up with to encompass Indigenous students, international students, domestic students whose family is international and students who return to Macalester after studying away.

For much of Macalester’s population, home is an easy place to identify because they grew up in one place and then moved to Macalester. It’s different for some international students because their new home at Macalester can be drastically different from the place they grew up.

“Home is a space for us to explore the complexities of our identities because the places that we call home, essentially, make up our identity,” Moua Thao said. “It’s hard to call one certain place [home] when we’ve moved around a lot or are from different countries outside the U.S. So, [Home is] a place for us to explore our perspectives about who we are and what we call home.”

To help students from international background authentically explore their identities, Home facilitates a safe space. “[Home is] not a place where [students from international background are] trying to be something else, but this is a place where [they] can be themselves authentically and be accepted for it,” Eiamkanchanalai said.

The magazine gives students from international backgrounds a medium to discuss their personal issues and perspectives. At Macalester, there is often a separation between international and domestic students. As a domestic student of international background, Moua Thao has a unique perspective on this divide.

The logo for Home is a hermit crab representing how home can be wherever you make it and is not only one place. Photo courtesy of Home magazine.

“I really hope that Home serves as a platform for international students to talk about their issues that don’t get talked about,” she said.

First-year domestic and international students come to Macalester and try to create a new home for themselves. For domestic students, their new home often looks similar to where they came from. For students from international background, this is often not the case. Home tries to help create this sense of belonging for students from international background.

“[Macalester] fosters this sense of belonging and sometimes it is harder for students of international backgrounds because most of the people here don’t look like you or talk like you or say the same things you do or don’t understand your culture,” Eiamkanchanalai said.

Further, the cultural differences between East Asia and the United States can create tensions for students from international backgrounds.

“If you grew up in East Asia, you are taught not to be assertive and that becomes a problem because [students from international background] don’t want to express themselves,” Eiamkanchanalai said.

Two pillars of Macalester’s mission statement are internationalism and multiculturalism. However, they are often seen as two separate ideas. Home tries to fuse these two concepts. Home aims to bring these two ideas together through their community and their magazine and see them as a pair – one cannot happen without the other.

“At Macalester, we promote multiculturalism and internationalism, but we kind of see them as two different things. And in order for us to have multiculturalism, we need to bring in the perspectives of international kids and allow them to have a voice as well,” Moua Thao said.

The logo for Home, a hermit crab, speaks to their mission as a magazine. What is unique about hermit crabs is that, because of their shells, home is wherever they stop for the night.

“A hermit crab moves around and wherever it stops is its home because it has a shell. And so that’s what we are trying to express with Home, that as long as you know that there are people with you, that you feel at home, anywhere can be your home,” Eiamkanchanalai said.

Home strives to create a “homey” space for students from international backgrounds to communicate their thoughts and views. In their second issue, Home published a variety of pieces such as a photo gallery and several pieces of prose, poetry and creative nonfiction. If you want to get involved, you can submit a piece for them or apply to join the Home team. Look out for the next issue sometime in late February to early March 2019 or find Home at their website, bringinghome.org.