Religions of every kind distinctly state that we should love each other as we love ourselves and not judge one another. Many religions clarify that we find our source of love in God, Allah, Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah, Hu, Baiame, Ahura Mazda, Quetzalcoatl, Vishnu, Zeus and other named deities.
At Principia, we all are students of the same religion – at various degrees and levels of understanding – so we generally have the same lessons taught to us. The one quote written on the walls of every Christian Science church around the world, as required by Mary Baker Eddy, is “God is Love.”
With this in mind, it is a wonder to me that there still seems to be a level of segregation here at Principia.
It’s nobody’s fault that there isn’t a more unified community at Principia. When you combine people of different backgrounds, people naturally start to form groups based on familiarity. It is a natural human instinct to befriend people with whom you have common background or common interests. However, I think that it is the fault of students that these gaps don’t seem to bother people to the point where someone does something about it.
The problem seems to be that domestic students don’t know enough about international students, or the worlds they come from, to communicate on a level that is friendly and funny. Because most domestic students are clueless about the common interests they might share with international students, conversations between the two “groups” end up being forced or interview-like, which tends to be awkward.
International students may be viewed by some as being quiet and anti-social when away from their “group,” but the fact of the matter is that many of them – just like all of us – are not quiet when they feel comfortable.
One example is the issue of education. Many domestic students were raised in classrooms where their opinion was valued and where they were encouraged to speak up in class. That kind of environment does not exist in most international classrooms. There might be an occasional assignment where students need to speak with each other, but for the most part, the education is lecture-based. Students aren’t expected to speak and share their opinion.
This might help to explain why that international kid in your class might seem “dumb” or too quiet to you. It’s important to think a little deeper before making such judgments.
Many domestic students have been in classrooms with children who were disrespectful to their teachers, and who often got away with it. This also doesn’t seem to happen frequently in international classrooms because it’s a big deal for children to be blessed with an education. Most international students have friends or family members who didn’t have the chance to go to school for any number of reasons.
When you know that school is a privilege, rather than a chore, your focus in school becomes a lot more directed toward getting a good education. The issues we call “first world problems” are real issues, and they appear quite absurd to the international eye.
I’m not saying that international students all come from impoverished backgrounds or that domestic students all come from wealthy backgrounds. However, many Americans have access to a free education; because of this, school seems to have become a chore for many. In much of the rest of the world, where there’s no such thing as public schooling, going to school isn’t a right. It’s a blessing.
Many of the international students at Principia worked diligently to be here, while many of the domestic students may have had an easier path. Again, the point of this column isn’t to stereotype or widen the gap. It’s to give ideas for people to consider so we can all start crossing the gap.