Forging family

Opinion by Amanda Rizkalla
Nov. 28, 2016, 1:48 a.m.

Mom, dad, sister, brother. A significant other back home. A family pet.

When you came to Stanford, you said some goodbyes. Some were easier said than others. Some weren’t said at all.

Or maybe, it feels like you never left in the first place – there are reminders of these people everywhere, residue of their continued presence in your life. These special people are smiling at you from the picture frame on your desk, they are one of a series of photographs strung across your wall, they are the phone call you wait for. Distance aside, they are here.

These mementos come braided with the occasional realization that it’s hard to be with someone – to really be with someone – if they aren’t here physically. FaceTime is great, handwritten letters are intimate and thoughtful, care packages are (if nothing else) much appreciated.

But after a while these digital, material substitutions for the people we care about become just that – representative, not substantive. Instead, we see an image of the people we miss, a projection of the friendship or closeness we crave. And we miss what appears to be – in some capacity – gone. And it hurts.

But then you look around you.

You see others caught mid-laughter, you hear the incessant buzzing of bikes, the exchange of pleasantries. It might feel isolating at first – why does everyone else seem to be adjusting so well? Like Stanford’s constantly sunny weather, there is an unspoken inclination to always appear happy. It might take a few rainy days for you to realize that other people feel lonely here, too. When you give into that possibility, you might be pleasantly surprised at who you find. And, with time, it can build and build until you are a more than willing participant in the idea that, maybe, you have family here, too. A twist in the narrative exposes itself: You are not alone.

I was lucky. A few weeks before NSO, I lived in Stern with 60 of some of the most incredible people I have met here. In the short month of the Leland Scholars Program, I got to know a cello player who also has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a former zoo keeper, singers, dancers, activists – all with stories to tell. In the two classes we took, I learned what it was like to fail, so that when I finally succeeded, I was surrounded by the people who helped me get back up. These are your classmates, these are your peers, these are maybe even the people sitting next you in that large lecture hall.

Branch out, because family is fluid; and when you’re ready, it’s up to you to join in.


Contact Amanda Rizkalla at amariz ‘at’

Amanda Rizkalla is a sophomore from East Los Angeles studying English and Chemistry. In addition to writing for the Daily, she is involved with the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program and is a Diversity Outreach Associate in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She loves to cook, bake, read, write and bike around campus.

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