By Ceili Doyle, Staff Writer

The pews of St. Mary’s are dimly lit by the afternoon sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows. A lone backpack rests on the floor. A young man stands by the door, glancing up every so often from his phone to the metal handle of the door.

Ayesh Perera is a Catholic Sri Lankan majoring in economics and political science. However, this afternoon he stands still, trying to find solace in a church nearly 9,000 miles away from home.

He is the oldest in his family. His younger sister is in her final year of high school back home, and Ayesh wonders whether or not she will make the same trek to attend college in the U.S. after she graduates. His parents supported his decision to leave home to study over halfway around the globe.

Still, some days he is more homesick than others.

“The fact that I am packed with a lot of work and I am taking a pretty heavy course load in addition to my involvements on campus has kept me busy,” he says. “But I do miss my family a lot.”

The Ohio weather has been the biggest culture shock for the 21-year-old, who is accustomed to monsoons and dry seasons rather than stereotypical Midwestern blizzards and thunderstorms.

Snow doesn’t fall in Sri Lanka and the winters have been brutal to a boy raised in the humid climate of South Asia. Even now, he stands outside, slightly shivering in the 70-degree fall day.

Despite the weather, he dreams of one day applying for U.S. citizenship and finding a job in the states after graduation. Most likely not in Ohio, though.

As Ayesh stands on the steps outside St. Mary’s church in Oxford, his smile remains infectious no matter how far away he is from home.

“It’s weird how much I am used to Miami now,” he says. “It won’t ever be Sri Lanka, but I have enjoyed my time here up until this point.”