Studying in a foreign country is a completely unique experience because I learn something new every single day. Last month I went skiing with other international students on a trip organized by Whitman’s intercultural office. The trip was so much fun—but not because I knew how to ski or that I even really enjoyed it. It was great because we were all laughing at how miserable we were falling down every three minutes and then how it would take us another three minutes to stand up on our skis again. The best part was the excitement of trying something new and making friends in the process. This is a trip that I will not forget anytime soon!
In February, I attended my school’s “Power and Privilege Symposium.” This was a daylong event where current world issues were addressed in workshops. While Whitman has an amazing academic program, the rigorous curriculum sometimes leaves students living in a bubble where they only live for their books, classes, and on-campus activities. Although these global issues may surface in a conversation with friends, there is usually not much time to think about these topics in depth. This daylong symposium was a way to break through this bubble and expose the students to the topics which often go ignored.
I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to attend three of the four workshops at the symposium. The first two discussed topics like tokenization and social profiling, but the third event on “international shock” was by far my favorite because I have had experience dealing with this issue. Afterwards, I went back to my room and my mind filled by new thoughts. I was so infuriated because I realized that my perception of myself was different from how the rest of this country perceives me. I came from Rwanda where labeling and racial profiling ripped that country apart and, from what I learned during the workshops, I could not believe that I was living in a place where the same thing was happening.
First and foremost, I realized that I wish to be judged by who I am as a person and not by my skin’s color. However, I firmly live by the idea that “A wish without a plan is just a dream.” I want to make sure that my children never experience these feelings of powerlessness and inhumane treatment, so these types of educational workshops must continue to take place. In fact, if there is one thing that I have learned during the last month, it is that we must continue to be open to learn new things from one another every single day. It is the only way that we can grow to be more accepting beings and to make the world a more peaceful place.
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