Global Migration and Transnational Migrants

11 Understanding ‘Home’

Where is home? What is ‘home’?

Have you ever thought about these questions? Think about what you would say if someone asked you what ‘home’ means to you.

Watch the video below to see how people of different ages and from diverse backgrounds respond to the question, “What does home mean to you?”

Now, read the paragraph below about one response to the question ‘What is home?’. As you read the paragraph, complete the following steps:

  • Analyze the structure of the paragraph.
    • Identify the ‘topic sentence’, the major details, the minor details, the transitions, and the conclusion.
    • Reflect on the manner in which this structure helps the organization of information in the paragraph.
  • Analyze the content of the paragraph.
    • Do you think the writer answered the question ‘What is home?’ in her paragraph?
    • Do you think that the details supported the main idea of the paragraph–that home for the writer is a “combination of places”?
    • Do you agree with the writer that for many migrants, home is a “hybrid of places, people, and experiences’? Why or Why not?


Where is Home?

Home, for me, is a combination of two places–where I grew up and where I now live. First, when I think of ‘home’, I think of Delhi in India. I grew up in a big house that my parents created for my sisters and me. To this day, my sisters and I talk about our दिल्ली-वाला-घर (‘Dilli-wallah-ghar’ or ‘the home in Delhi’). In addition to my parents’ house, Dilli also represents my first home to me. I went to school, made friends, attended college, and started my first job–all in Delhi. However, at the age of 25, I moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies and become an educator. My first home was now halfway across the world, but I created a second home in a city called Greenbelt in Maryland. Greenbelt reminded me of the lush green hill stations where I used to spend my summer vacations as a child with my family in India. I lived in this city for many years in rented apartments. Finally, I bought my own small place in Greenbelt. As a result, now when I think of ‘home’, it is the big house in Delhi and the little condo in Greenbelt. For many people like me who migrate from one part of the world to another, ‘home’ is no longer one place; ‘home’ is truly a hybrid of places and experiences.

Watch and listen to this TedTalk by Pico Iyer as he talks about ‘Where is home?’. 

Listening Comprehension Task

As you watch the video, you may also open the transcript that is available on the As you listen to the talk and read the transcript, make a list of words and phrases that are new or unfamiliar. Look up the meaning of those words and phrases in the dictionary or using the other strategies taught so far. Write down the meanings. You may also write the equivalent in your first language, if it’s not English, especially if you have true cognates[1] of the target vocabulary in your first language.

Recognize your own perspectives and communicate ideas through in-class discussion.

Pay special attention to the first half of Iyer’s talk. At different points, he raises the same general question “Where do you come from?”, and accompanies it each time with a specifically different way of making sense the question. He then answers the question each time by drawing upon his own background and experiences.

Look at the corresponding list of questions below, and answer them by looking at your own background and experiences. Do you have the same answer each time, or like Iyer, does your answer vary from one question to the next? Write your responses down and share them when we discuss these questions in class.

  • If someone asked you ‘Where do you come from?’ meaning ‘Where were you born and raised and educated’, what would your response be?
  • If someone asked you ‘Where do you come from?’ meaning ‘Where do you pay taxes, see your doctor, and go to your dentist?’, what would your response be?
  • If ‘Where do you come from?” means in the words of Iyer, “Which place goes deepest inside you and where do you try to spend most of your time?”, what would your response be?

  1. True cognates are words that have the same word root and are very similar or exactly the same in their meanings. Generally, languages with a shared history have true cognates, e.g. Latin languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian, etc.).


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Demystifying Academic English Copyright © by Rashi Jain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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