While At Miami University in Oxford Ohio, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the Mindfulness center. We wanted to create an opportunity for students studying social work to connect with the issues faced by international students, non-citizen community members and even those that had citizenship but were originally from another country.
those people living in the outsider’s space gave the following stories into my care to be anonymized and shared with the students. Part of my story is included as well.
We often feel like our issues are very different/worse than anyone else can imagine or maybe that others have it super easy.
I hope this helps you gain some perspective on your colleagues on campus and the struggles they may be going through. You can always see more at http://www.scienceandperspective.com
Here there is coca-cola everywhere and everytime I see one, I remember my last days at home. The soldiers and the citizens were fighting everyday in the streets and I had been teargassed and as I stumbled down an alley a woman I did not know shouted down to me. I could barely see her, but she threw a can of coca cola and an onion cut in half. Smelling the onion cleared the burning from my lungs and I used the coca-cola to wash the gas from my hands and face. I thanked her and ran.
Over the next several months I crossed through the desert and several countries, eventually making it to Miami University.
Separated and worried about my family, I hear American and international friends and colleagues talk about people from my country and refugees, negatively. But there is Coca-cola everywhere.
One in three
On campus I am one of three from my country, only three. There are three children in Oxford with a parent from my country, only three. Today I heard that one of the three children was crossing the street, a vehicle swerved to try and hit him while they shouted racial slurs. My children are the other two. It should not make a difference but it does. I feel like that hate is for me for my children.
I fell on campus and the ambulance took me to the hospital. I do not understand the US insurance system and when the emergency room doctors told me how much it cost, I knew I could not afford it. I told them so. They told me if I refuse treatment they could not help me. I walked a mile and a half home with a concussion, because I did not understand US insurance and they could not explain to me.
In my country we speak hundreds of languages, our cultures are more diverse than anywhere I have been. Almost every time I meet someone new, they tell me they know someone from my country. They are so enthusiastic that they know two of us. After introducing us, we usually find out that the only language we share is English.
Home: Chicago, Africa, Oxford
Growing up in Chicago, we would go back to South Africa where my parents are from, every year or so. I miss it so much! When I moved to Oxford though, I started to notice that I miss Chicago. I am about to graduate and I am not sure which one I will miss more. I don’t know whether Chicago or Africa or Oxford is home. I can’t choose.
The N word
In my country, we all used the n word growing up. It was like saying dude. When I came to the [USA] the first time, I was hanging out with some people from uni. I don’t remember what we were talking about but a few guys got really upset and wanted to fight me. I seriously thought they may have beat me up. A friend from home was there and vouched for me being black. I knew I was light skinned, but this was the first time I was considered “white”, the first time I was considered racist for using that word. I don’t use it anymore, but why do we give it so much power?
As an international scholar with children, I have been here for more than ten years. I have two children here, but I am not a citizen. If I lose my position, or my funding, or have to leave the country where could I find home? My home country has changed drastically in the past decade while I have lived here. My children hardly know anything about my home country. The USA is home.
I got the scholarship. I left my wife at home. And flew to Ohio, my advisor brought me to Oxford and my new apartment. Partly furnished. At home [in my country], partly furnished includes appliances and perhaps a kitchen table and bed. Here, it means a fridge and stove. I spent my first night in oxford with no bed, no internet, no phone, no lightbulbs. Is that normal? I was colder than I had ever been. I slept on a pile of clothing and awoke terrified thinking a train was about to run me over, we have no trains at home. Here (Oxford) is our new home, what does everything mean? What is normal?
I am the first from my country to come to Miami University. I am the first in my town to get a graduate degree. Here, I am not the smartest in my class, I am not the youngest. I am the oldest and I struggle.
When I first came to the USA I had a difficult time making friends or finding romance. A girl in my statistics class told me one day that I am nice and smart and handsome, but in America it is common to use deodorant or cologne. This is not common in my country. She took me to the store and helped me to pick out my first deodorant. Now we are married for nearly 30 years. She saw me and thought I was worth it, while others laughed at me.
How do I leave the USA? Am I ready? I am afraid I am so used to life here, how can I adjust back to life in my home country? I have not learned anything about my home country. Does it feel the same for my classmates?
I just got here. But I have no idea how to survive even. Why is it so cold? I have to stay, I have no money to go home. I cannot tell my parents I am not doing well because they would die from the shame. I tried to talk to my advisor but they keep sending me to the Confucius Institute. I feel scared to tell them, but angry as well. I am not Chinese. I am Korean. How can I stay when no one knows me or anything about me?
I got the same email as everyone else, all the international students. We had to get our blood tested. It is mandatory, if we do not, we will be dropped from our classes, we will be out of legal status, we can be deported, along with our family members. So, I went to get my blood tested, even though I sent my medical records and even though I had the test done before coming here. I was laying on the gurney with the needle in my arm when the nurse realized that people from my country did not need to take the test. But we all got the email. So we sometimes joke “They think we are all dirty foreigners.”
I have spoken English for almost three decades. It is my native language. My master’s thesis and three college degrees were all in English. The university has all this information about me. But I still have to take the Test of English as a foreign language.
It’s just a joke
Walking the halls of our building on campus in the early morning, I heard some people laughing and talking about the children being held in cages. I walk past the workers and they greet me with a smile like they always do. They do not know I am an international student. They do not know that I live in fear of ending up in one of those cages. I will never let them know. I smile and greet them still.
Another black guy
It happened again. I have been meeting with a group of Social Justice Activists. We regularly discuss the problems faced by people of color on campus and nationally. Today I brought up the issues international students face, biased policies, stereotyping, etc. The group is not ready or willing to face that battle. It Is outside their scope. I can be another black guy but we have to leave citizenship out of it.
We were happy to contribute when we were invited to review the University Statement on Diversity. We added visa status as one of the core aspects of diversity on campus. We know they saw it. It is not mentioned in the public statement.