I had the pleasure of facilitating my very first international student awareness panel discussion in celebration of international student day. The actual international student day is November 17th. November 17th is marked by many universities across the globe as an international observance day of students; a nonpolitical celebration of the multiculturalism of international students and the good they do for their local communities.
The traditional definition of an international student is those who are on student visas. However, there also those who are born and raised in one country and eventually acquires citizenship in another. While the two groups have their own set of struggles and worries, they share one thing in common, they are both foreign.
Navigating the immigration experience can be exceedingly difficult. I have come across a series of questions; some genuine, some funny, and some cornering but all hard to ignore. Because of my background, physical appearance, and mannerism, my first encounters are always accompanied with a series stereotype and assumptions about who I am and what I am about. My all-time favorite question is, “how did you get here?” I used to answer genuinely, but overtime I started telling people, I swam.
When we do not understand something, it is a lot easier to make assumptions and generalizations. While assumptions and generalizations are easy, they come with their own set of baggage. Facing assumptions and stereotypes, often but not always, can either hinder a student’s progress or give them the motivation they need to challenge assumptions and overturn stereotypes. All the more reason to recognize and celebrate the international student body.