As an international student, my first year of college was full of surprises. It was a huge transition for me and for many other international students who are now good friends of mine. We had a hard time making friends. For most of us, it’s still hard to make friends and to feel comfortable around other privileged students. Imagine how hard it would be for you to travel overseas, fly hundreds of miles, leave your family and friends behind, with a hope that you will meet new people, good people that could become your new family and new friends.
I used to be very shy and embarrassed about who I am and where I come from, because people only accept those who are like them in their circle. If you’re an outsider you remain an outsider, which is a common experience for international students. I experienced it in my first semester when I was not welcomed into a study group.
Most international students get harassed other students. They are asked to go back to their countries, and they are labeled as uncivilized and dirty people. I was not welcomed by most domestic students because of my religion and because I am from Afghanistan. International students get harassed and bothered because we are different from others. It’s very outrageous to see domestic kids making fun of our religion, color, language and perspectives. Last semester I saw a guy post a picture of himself with the Quran and making jokes. He was taking an Islamic class where he was taught about what Islam really is but he showed that no matter how and what the truth is he enjoyed stereotyping by offending me, my other international, and my Muslim friends.
I think Colleges can do more to prevent discrimination against international students, based on their race, ethnicity and language barrier. Some Colleges and universities in the United States host friendly events to bring together students to create integration among international students and domestic students. Some examples are: “Campus Cousins, Friendship Families, and pair international students with domestic students or recent study abroad returnees to promote one-on-one interaction.” These events create a positive environment. They will start accepting and respecting each other, but unfortunately most colleges still have old programs for international students where only international students gather together and share their challenges without finding any solutions. Interacting with domestic students will help us grow more inclusive networks. My message to students out there is to please accept each others’ differences by communicating and making a connection.