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December 1, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 34°F

Opinion

International students must be respected on campus

“I feel myself in a zoo while watching you guys speaking in Portuguese.” I looked at my Brazilian friend with a pale face, hoping that I misunderstood what I heard from the boy that was at the table with us. Unfortunately, my English listening abilities were accurate. Although my mind was trying to make me say many words to him, I was just trying to hold back all the tears that started coming out. Because of that, I could not say anything.

As an international student at Ithaca College, I am not only dealing every day with the difficulties of homework, living daily in my second language and being away from home, but also with being respected and feeling like I belong on this campus. 

Even though we have the support of the Office of International Programs, this is not enough to feel included in the campus community. Professors and students from the U.S. also have a responsibility for being respectful and accommodating. 

Everything can start in our classrooms. Professors that assign projects and homework designed for Americans and do not have the flexibility to make assignments more internationally based contribute to making us feel less included in the class. Being an international student means not only giving our best but our triple best in each college task. We are adapting ourselves to a totally different education method and we are, in most cases, using our second language. Besides, our backgrounds and life experiences are totally different. Therefore, even though we make the strongest effort, we will never be able to have the exact same experiences as some strict American professors expect American students to have. So, when professors reference an event in U.S. history by saying, “You know what was happening in that year,” we do not know.  

If international students use a wrong term during a class discussion, please be more tolerant and advise them about it in a respectful way. English is not our first language and most of these sociology/humanities terms are confusing even for Americans. Making assumptions or even correcting us in a rude way will not help to make us feel comfortable expressing our different ideas and contributions during class. Professors need to create a safe, comfortable and inclusive environment during class. International students always have much to contribute, however, most of them can feel insecure about sharing and not being respected.

Students can make a difference too. When in a class discussion, why not ask international students about their perspective on the topic and how this subject would work in their own country? It can be an important way to help international classmates feel that their background is respected and significant. Furthermore, these comments and opinions will help all students make the discussion even richer. 

Another important point is that if native English speakers feel difficulties in creating strong connections during the first year of college, then for international students this is even more difficult. Most of the time, relationship interactions are different
between countries, and understanding the American way of interaction can be a cultural shock because different cultures interact differently. The best way to deal with barriers is through verbal communication and making sure that everyone is respecting each other.

Last but not least, respect the other’s culture, language and accent. All of us are different and this is what makes our campus interesting and incredible! The campus is our home and our classmates are our neighbors. Let’s appreciate the beauty of our diversity!