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The Daily Illini

Editorial: Let’s break down barriers between international and domestic students

Yumi Ota

Yumi Ota

We live on a campus divided into two distinct populations that seldom overlap: international students and domestic students.

The University’s student population is made up of about 24 percent international students, yet many domestic students can’t name more than one or two of their international peers. Even fewer domestic and international students are close friends with each other.

Where domestic students often experience a three-hour car ride separating them from their homes and families, international students may have 12-hour plane rides, absurd time differences and a foreign language to learn.

So, yes, it’s understandable why domestic and international students often go their separate ways. Each group shares different experiences and challenges; however, it’s precisely because of this that all students should actively break out of these groups any chance they get.

It can be easy for domestic students to dismiss international students because they’re “different,” but it’s just not true. International students are far more similar to their domestic counterparts than noticeable at first glance. We all want a good education, we all complain about our insane homework loads, we all like to hang out and laugh with our closest friends and ultimately, we all want to enjoy college while simultaneously earning a world-class education. We all worry about money, our futures, our grades and our social relationships. We’re all college students, sharing the University as our home for four years.

International students’ experiences at Illinois can be affected by the students and faculty around them. Domestic students can choose to be accepting and help international students with these differences and challenges, or they can stereotype them and never go out of their way to learn more about them.

Imagine with us for a second: A campus where the international and domestic populations are integrated into each other. A campus where we all have friends from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. A campus where everyone is a little more understanding and welcoming.

Granted, the University is an unbelievable diverse campus and ranks above average in ethnic diversity. While it is impressive that there are so many people here from different walks of life, we can still make progress in inclusivity.

So let’s work fervently to embrace diversity and practice inclusivity by fighting back against harmful stereotypes and the “stick with your own” mindset. It’s more than just the right thing to do; it’s beneficial to all students because everyone can stand to learn a little something new about someone else.

2 Comments

  • aj

    Appreciate the efforts of the Daily Illini to address this “problem.” One suggestion: more frank discussions of race (the general absence of African American students, and yes, the uncomfortable subject of whiteness: the Chief, case in point) on this campus, as well many American college campuses, more generally. All this talk of “inclusion” and “diversity” are nice in theory but they mostly sugar coat things. UIUC’s own late Prof. Nancy Abelmann wrote a book about it: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/03/abelmann. Although international students hail from non-Asian countries, the majority still are from China, India, and South Korea. This is also another relevant start: http://www.nais.org/Magazines-Newsletters/ISMagazine/Pages/The-Model-Minority-Myth.aspx

    • Ben Venuti

      Back to your safe space, aj, the Chief is after you.