International students face challenges in bringing diversity to Tufts
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 08:04
International students are aware of the divide that is consequently created.
“It’s like two different worlds, my American friends and my international friends,” Castro said.
Many international students participate in clubs or groups pertaining to their specific country or culture, in addition to international programs such as IO and the International Club. Badruddin cites the importance of this form of cultural unity, but the necessity for integration as well.
“I think there’s definitely a place for groups relating to specific nationalities or ethnicity or race, but I also think that everyone needs to make an individual effort to challenge themselves ... with the situations they put themselves in,” he said.
Pollydore, who is currently the downhill freshman representative to the International Club, sees the situation a bit differently. From her experience, the international community balances solidarity and assimilation into the Tufts community.
“I think that within the international community, when we’re together, we’re very strong,” she said. “But I feel like people really do make an effort to integrate themselves into other parts of Tufts’ campus.”
Another pervasive stereotype about international students at Tufts is that they are significantly wealthier than the typical American student. Etish−Andrews acknowledges that this perception is based in reality.
“For our undergrad students, it is quite expensive to come to Tufts, so if you’re not on any financial aid, you need to show that you’re able to come as an American would,” she said. “I think there is some reputation among international students developing throughout the country that they’re coming from wealthy families, and there’s some truth to that.”
Castro agrees that the stereotype is true in many cases.
“Most of the international kids I know are really rich. And it makes sense, because they’re studying abroad,” she said.
However, Etish−Andrews also points out significant advances over the recent years in the availability of financial aid for international students, which enhances the internal diversity of the international community itself.
“With that mix, as it has grown over the years, you have the opportunity to really interact with students who would never have gotten here without some type of financial assistance from Tufts,” she said. “That population enriches what is already a very interesting population.”
The demographics of the international community have changed over the years and continue to change, especially in terms of region of origin. According to both Stevens and Etish−Andrews, there has been a recent influx of international students from Asia, especially China. Both see this change as reflective of larger changes in the world political and economic situation.
Because of their non−American backgrounds, international students can bring a unique perspective both to Tufts and to American society.
“Tufts does create this sort of bubble, and you can go to university and not understand what’s outside the bubble,” said Badruddin. “Coming from a different country with different problems gives you a perspective on what’s outside that bubble.”
Castro has experienced this, particularly when it comes to the American political situation and its flaws.
“I think I can see a lot of problems with the United States that a typical American [wouldn’t] ... My perspective, especially coming from a place that’s been colonized by the United States, [is that] the United States is very political,” she said.
These perspectives reinforce an existing academic framework at Tufts that emphasizes international relations and a general global outlook. According to Stevens, the insight that international students can provide in this setting is often useful for both international and American students.
“[International students] bring an opportunity for U.S. students to learn beyond the limit of their perspectives and find out that not everyone in the world approaches things the way you do,” she said. “Meeting international students makes them curious about global issues in a personal way and talk about controversial issues in a meaningful way.”
Etish−Andrews agrees, citing the importance of relationships between international and American students in adding to both academic and non−academic global learning.
“If you become friends or interact with international students, you learn so much about an area of the world, or a country, an ethnicity, a religious group ... If you’re talking about something happening in Turkey, and Turkish students are in the class or part of that environment, it can enrich the experience,” she said.
Pollydore has experienced this knowledge exchange firsthand. She says that in addition to bringing new understanding to American students, international students go through their own learning process from being at Tufts and in the United States.
“I think that as an international student on campus, you bring your experiences and your views and everything that you know and kind of weave that into the already existing global perspective on campus,” she said. “It facilitates good dialogue back and forth between international students and between American students. [International students] shine light on issues pertaining to America just as much as we shine light on issues pertaining to our home countries.”
For Castro, this learning is happening in a much more diverse atmosphere than she could have experienced in her country of origin.
“Here ... it’s so much more open, in the sense that there are so many people, so much diversity. Puerto Rico is very homogeneous,” she said. “With my international and American friends, I’m finding out about their lives and their cultures, and who they are as people.”