I often have trouble describing my time in Grenada to people who have not lived or at least visited abroad, and for a long time I struggled to figure out why that was the case. I thought myself a reasonably observant person and I have some modest skill with language, but I could not articulate an accurate characterization of student life on the Spice Island. But then I realized the root of my difficulties: I was consistently trying to answer the question, “What’s it like?” Therein lay the impossibility.
The paradox was formed by the conflict between the vernacular appeal for an analogy and my experience of life in Grenada. Put simply, I cannot tell people what it is like to live in Grenada because it is not like anything else I have ever experienced.
The struggles and the victories, the sacrifices and the triumphs, the outrage and the joys of living in what is still mostly a third-world country translate poorly to those who have not experienced it. Personally, I am frustrated by my own failed efforts to explain it. I am in a profession in which my efficacy and my income are largely based on my ability to communicate ideas to other people and I can only poorly describe a country in which I lived for three years. The failure of communication to friends and family back home is profound and proved isolating for myself and many other students. There is little empathy to be had when you cannot adequately explain what and why and how things are difficult for you, especially when Facebook is covered with photographs of beautiful beaches and scenic vistas. This is one of the greatest struggles for students attending a foreign university.
I will not describe the specific details of the challenges associated with living in a place like Grenada. While the trials are many, such things still do not translate well. I also dislike complaining. However, the combination of struggle and isolation serves as a powerful crucible for the creation and galvanization of meaningful and enduring friendships. For those friendships, I am grateful. It is not my degree that I cherish most from St. George’s University, but rather it is the friendships forged while there. Without the latter, I would not have earned the former.