Fuellenbach: Global students cope with boundaries

Fuellenbach argues that international students at Temple feel relegated by lack of inclusiveness.

Kim Fuellenbach

Kim FuellenbachSurveys about the Temple Made campaign will ask students whether Temple is a place for everyone or if the campus is multifaceted. Advertising and valuing these characteristics are the campaign’s crucial point. Temple wants to be a diverse place in which everyone finds somewhere to fit it in.

Temple is proud to be very international. I agree that this is all true. For me, a student from Germany, Temple is more international than any other place I have been to in the last few months. Coming from Germany, or really any other place outside the U.S., makes you a member of the international community instantaneously. In my first week, I was invited to the German–American meet-up without even being aware that there was such a thing.

But the people I’ve met at Temple come from all over the world. To be honest, the one group I’m having a hard time locating are the “real Americans” who are willing to talk to me outside of class. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there. It’s just really hard to find them.

Emily Haffenden, a junior British exchange student studying American history and politics, shares this frustrating experience.

“Before I arrived, I had the idea that I would go home with a lot of American friends,” she said. “Now, I mostly know internationals.”

Her opinion shows that the international students want to be in touch with the American community because they believe the friendships they can make will have a positive impression on them and will further enhance their experience at an American university. But it also shows that this is often not the norm. The international students stay together as a group, as a model of Temple’s claimed diversity, but lacking the most obvious element.

This situation can’t be caused by lack of will. Most of the incoming international students had to justify why they wanted to spend a semester or a year abroad. I am sure that the majority named a variation of “getting to know the American situation from an inside perspective” as one of their reasons. I know I did.

And nor can the reason be lack of trying. International students — myself included — are everywhere: At Free Food, Fun Fridays, in student associations, throwing and attending parties and drinking coffee after classes.

Believe it or not, internationals live lives quite similar to everyone else’s.

The international students came to Temple all on their own — they didn’t bring their friends. They came with open minds and interests in learning about a different life.

It’s sad to admit, but a lot of international students are underestimated by the student body at large — sometimes for trivial reasons such as speech errors. I’ve witnessed it. But does this aforementioned student body realize English is the international students’ second, third or maybe even fourth language? It can only improve with practice. That’s another reason why international students came to study at Temple: They are interested in perfecting their English speaking.

Drawing a line between internationals and Americans, even emphasizing it with regard to Temple’s diversity, will not help the process of integrating everyone into the university’s community.

Temple is a diverse place, and part of that is the strong international community the university boasts. But sometimes we should get past the places we come from and focus on the experiences we want to share while we are all on Main Campus.

Kim Fuellenbach can be reached at kim.fuellenbach@temple.edu.

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