For Christmas, I gave my new friend appendicitis.
That’s what she feared when we finally spilled out of the car after a 12-hour trek up north. We entered my in-laws’ home pale and exhausted, my friend clutching her side and wondering if she’d brought her health insurance card.
It turned out to be just muscle cramps and dehydration, which was good, since I had planned to
give her a Dayton Flyers T-shirt instead.
My friend is Melody Asaresh Moghadam from Iran, an undergraduate music student. At 22 years old, Melody spent her first Christmas ever surrounded by my loving and exuberant extended family. We filled Melody full of sugar cookies and eggnog, and she nourished us with traditional songs strummed on her four-stringed setar.
I started working at UD the same year Dan Curran became president, so I have witnessed the transformation of our campus into a global learning village. Being a member of UD’s communications staff, I write often about how important it is for our domestic students to learn from their international counterparts.
But what goes unacknowledged is how their presence enriches us all. My husband and I have served as an International Friendship Family to Melody from Tehran and Kevin Ishimwe from Rwanda. This magazine has hired Zoey Xia from China and Arthur Su from Taiwan to take amazing photos of campus. I have learned how to say welcome in many languages and forgotten how to say goodbye in many more. Always, the University’s goal in facilitating these interactions is to help students manage the transition and become full participants in campus life. Always, the true outcome is something that sounds like a medical condition: the swelling of our hearts, the expanding of our minds, the enlarging of our circle of friends.
When people hear Melody’s story — how she flew into Dayton with four carry-ons and not a friend or relative within thousands of miles — they say she is brave. She replies she is not; she just did what she needed to do — to perfect her playing, to improve her English, to choose a religion.
I continue to share holiday texts with Kevin, who is now studying nursing in Michigan. I receive baby photos from Arthur, who has returned to Taiwan with his wife and daughter. And I share full-belly laughs with Melody: about the appendix attack, and the way my husband cannot pronounce the “geh” in her last name, and how she showed up for what she thought was a music audition and left cast as the
comedic equivalent to Bob Saget.
When we have finished laughing, and are red-faced and exhausted, we marvel at how different we are from how each other’s government imagines us — two women in Dayton Flyers T-shirts, students of the world.