The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Last Thursday as a part of Mindfulness Week, a session was led by Miami grad student Ancilleno Davis in which international students and faculty were invited to share stories of their experiences at Miami. Davis, the event organizer, made considerable efforts to create a safe environment, neglecting to design the event as an open forum and instead creating a space in which people shared their stories and others listened.
While the intent behind this event was admirable and necessary, nearly every student who wrote stories of their experiences did not show up to share them at the event. The problem: The international students didn’t feel comfortable sharing their stories.
The stories that were shared at the forum, though few, reveal major issues with the interaction between domestic students and international students. The stories painted a picture of what life is like as an international student here at Miami; facing constant language barriers, judgement and blatant racism. One of the most harrowing stories told of a student who suffered a concussion and went to McCullough-Hyde, only to have to leave untreated when the medical workers could not communicate to them how American health insurance works.
While some offered experiences of love or hope, as a whole, the stories painted a picture of a campus in which international students often struggle to feel at home.
It is the lack of attendance by those who were supposed to speak at the event that speaks volumes to the level of discomfort that international students feel on this campus.
Let’s not forget that our international students face a completely different set of challenges when they come to school here from India, China, various countries in Africa and South America. And it is all too often that this different set of challenges gets swept under the rug, and the issue of mental health within the international community subsequently becomes one we need to talk about, but seldom do.
We need to be doing a better job of creating an inclusive environment. Our university claims to be an inclusive place for all. But the stories shared at the event are real stories from people we pass every day. It is pivotal for us, as domestic students, to reach out to them, listen to them, share a cup of coffee or a conversation. These are tangible things that we as the student body can do to ensure that international students feel welcome.
In short, this event highlights that we need international students to speak out — to share their stories and experiences with us. As a media organization, we have a platform that can give those students a voice despite the fact that they otherwise may not have one on campus.
And don’t just speak to us. Talk to other student organizations. Talk to Redhawk Radio, Up! Fashion Magazine. Talk to our Associated Student Government and various campus leaders, whether that’s professors, resident assistants or just friends. Start talking. Because in order to truly claim the title of an inclusive university, it is imperative that we create a dialogue surrounding the challenges international students face by speaking and interacting with them fully.
Leno Davis specifically designed the mindfulness session to facilitate comfort and inclusivity. Despite his efforts, the culture on our campus held our fellow classmates back from sharing their stories. The most important message we should be sending is making sure international students feel comfortable speaking out.