As we prepare to celebrate Pride Week in June, World Learning is sharing students’ experiences throughout the semester observing inclusion on campus. World Learning’s Global UGRAD OPAL course module “Beyond Tolerance: Inclusion and Diversity Practices,” encourages students to attend an event or club meeting that serves as a space for minority students. Below are some welcoming spaces students discovered!
Ali Al Bana, Bahrain, University of Missouri-Columbia
It was quite the liberating experience to have been surrounded by those who were of the same sexual orientation. Not only did it feel safe, but to have been in a place where I was celebrated and not tolerated, no word could ever suffice to express that feeling. The LGBTQ+MU organization at MU is a house to those within the LGBTQ+ community who wish to contribute back to it. From game nights, educational seminars, spring flings, to tour guides around Columbia, the events are of an endless array. The university also has a Multicultural Association, Women’s Center, and Mental Health Center.
Steffi Ramos, Philippines, Castleton University
For Black History Month, the “Race Matters” study group tackled issues on race, racism, privilege, inequality, and experiences of community members of color in small group discussions. The discussion started with a brief but impactful history on racial segregation in the United States. What I liked most is that the discussion wasn’t merely about the past, it was more focused on the recent experience, the focus was on the quotidian and mundane. These are the everyday experiences that are often taken for granted. I appreciate how the organizers of these discussions provided online resources that we can review even after the dialogue. This enhances our understanding of the issues. Since these are heavy issues, they require substantial readings in order to fully digest the information. Additionally, I understand that the event was conducted in connection to Black History Month but it would have been nice if the intersectionality of social locations leading to marginalization and oppression is discussed. The intersection of race with gender, sexuality, class, and even abilities and age all contribute to varying levels of experiences of marginalization and oppression. These could have all been integrated together. With representation comes power.
Alex Lundi, Haiti, Bemidji State University
I have been here at Bemidji State University for almost two months now, a place where it is relatively difficult to be included. I was struggling with my inclusion for about two weeks after my arrival here, until I joined the International Students Organization. This club’s mission is to provide a platform for both the American and international students to get to know each other’s culture and provide the opportunity for students to polish their skills on multicultural competency. Indeed, while frequenting this organization at both formal and informal meetings, I have learned not only to fit in but to belong to a circle of friends with both people from here in Minnesota, from other states, and from the other side of the globe. To me, this organization is very valuable. It not only helps you start your time away from home with fewer difficulties of all kinds such as culture shock and other misunderstandings; it also it helps to keep a good morale throughout the stay, whether it is academic-related things or simply an everyday situation. For example, you will always find someone to talk about your desire to eat a traditional dish from home, someone who understands what it feels like because she/he also is or has been through this.
Nadia Chang, Guatemala, North Dakota State University
I went to a Drag Show in the NDSU campus – yes, a Drag Show. The term of Drag Queen describes “a man who disguises himself and acts in the manner of the stereotype of a woman with exaggerated features, with a primarily histrionic intent that mocks the traditional notions of gender identity and gender roles.” I went to this show with my international friends, and we had a fun time while every drag queen performed in her unique way. I found it interesting how at the beginning of the show the organizer called out the names of different LGBTQ+ groups and also for those who identify as “straight.” I think that Campus Attractions did a great job in integrating the community by inviting the Drag Queens group to perform on the stage. The salon was filled with people from the LGBT+ community and those outside of it. Additionally, on my campus, I’ve seen many different ways the LGBTQ+ community is included. For example, in the dining area you can find bathrooms that include all genders, people can request to room with a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and there are organizations such as the “Pride Alliance” where if you identify with the gender and sexual minority community, you can enroll in this group and have a space for expression and other fun activities. One suggestion for better integration is to have more activities where members of the LGBTQ+ community and those outside of it can integrate in a way that allows people of all identities to confidently show who they are without hiding it.
Rehab Alhawsawi, Saudi Arabia, University of Houston-Victoria
I attended a meeting for the women’s empowerment organization in my host university. The meeting was about discussing some common issues and talking about them throughout that gathering. I was a little bit surprised that some guys attended that meeting even though it was called a “women’s organization.” However, those guys were actually helpful during the discussion because they were able to give us, females, some answers to some of the issues that were mentioned. For example, some of the girls said that they were not able to understand men and how they think. The guys gave them some helpful answers on how men view things. I benefited from that answer as well. It made it easier for me to know how men’s brains work. One of the things that I really liked about that meeting was that everyone got engaged and was excited to participate and share their knowledge. The atmosphere was so cozy and lovely. The organization members did a great job preparing that place. I believe that this organization is helpful for women because it helps them to share their problems with each other and discuss different topics. I encourage every woman to join an organization like this because it is a good way to engage in communicate with each other.