Intensive English students speak out

Xavier University’s Intensive English Students Respond to the Question:

“How does it feel to be an international student in the United States, given the current political environment?”

Fadwa Albalawi, Saudi Arabia

Since my first day at Xavier, I have discovered a lot. I have met a lot of nice students and teachers, and some of them have become my friends. As an international student, I feel that I am a part of this community. However, I also experienced an unexpected negative situation. The week before spring break, while I was walking by Bellarmine Chapel, a random Xavier student said to me under his breath “murderer.” At that moment, I felt so shocked, hurt and afraid.  Later, I felt better after sharing my story with my teacher, friends and Xavier’s Dean of Students.  However, I still don’t understand how seemingly reasonable people can stereotype and judge entire groups, especially when they have no personal knowledge or experience of that group. I hope sharing my story will help raise awareness of this problem in society. Overall, my time in the U.S. has been wonderful and I look forward to meeting more people and learning much more.

Nora Alsafiani, Saudi Arabia

I came to the U.S. with my husband to study, and I am studying English right now before I start my master’s degree program in Information Systems. As a Muslim, I believe that practicing my religion is a path to world peace. In fact, the word “Islam” means peace. A foundation of the Muslim religion is kindness and good behavior with everyone. Anything you hear otherwise about Muslims is not the true practice of Islam. I really like this country, and the people here are very friendly because this country has many people from everywhere. I like experiencing a community here built on unity despite all these differences.

Ana Baltodano, Nicaragua

My experience of being an international student here has been really good. Getting to know another culture, meeting new people and eating new food has been so fun. I was nervous when I first arrived because I didn’t know the country or culture and I was alone. The most difficult part for me has been making friends because everyone is nice, but most connections are superficial. For example, people will say, “That’s cool that you are international. Let’s get together some time,” but then they never follow up. Others aren’t comfortable interacting with internationals and they avoid you. However, after several months, I was able to find my group, and it has been really fun. My friends at Xavier are like my family, and they will always be with me. I encourage everyone to make friends with international people. Some may think that we are completely different, but if they get to know us, they will see that people all over the world share so many similarities.  Learning about cultural differences while celebrating similarities and friendship is such a valuable experience.

Ayyoub El Abbassi, Morocco

How do I feel being an international student in America? I have always been fascinated by how mixed and diverse American society is, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to live here. I believe the ultimate strength of the U.S. is its diversity and embrace of the idea that everyone has a shot here. However, it’s hard to witness the rise of xenophobic speech nowadays. I don’t want to generalize, but it frustrates me how little the majority of Americans know about other countries and cultures. As someone from Morocco, I find being viewed as “exotic” so annoying. The term holds so much marginalization of how “Arabs” or “ Middle Easterners” are being seen. The funny part here is that Morocco is not even in the Middle East.

Sana Elduweni, Libya

I came to the U.S. four years ago from the war in my country, Libya. I came with my husband and children. It was very hard to leave everything behind: my family, my friends, my whole life. Coming to a new country looking for safety and trying to make a new life was a huge challenge. When we first arrived, we were nervous about how we would be treated. However, no one has treated us badly for being Muslim, Arabic or immigrants.  I appreciate all the people who have supported us and helped us to adjust to our new life in the U.S. Another thing I really appreciate in this country is the freedom for people to express their opinions. Everyone can speak about his/her views and political opinions freely. Newspapers even have dedicated pages for people to express their opinions.  Americans may take freedom of expression for granted, but they shouldn’t.  It is a precious right that many governments in the world don’t allow.

Alexandra Salazar, Mexico

Xavier for me was a new experience. At first, it was hard to get used to life in college in a new country. Being an international student made it hard to meet many Americans, but I have met many international students. Going to university in a different country has been a challenge not only because you have to study in a non-native language but because each country has different approaches for teaching that you must adapt to.  Regarding the current political climate, because I am from Mexico, I am sometimes asked what I think about the wall that Trump wants to build.  For me, I honestly believe it is a waste of money and something that will only divide two neighboring countries.

Luisa Sanchez, Venezuela

When I first came to the United States in 2016, I was intimidated and nervous to be in a foreign culture. I was biased and held many prejudices against Americans just because I did not know better. In a span of months, my opinion quickly changed thanks to all the amazing people that I met. They helped me realize what a great country this is. I think that a vast majority of people in this country are actually more open-minded than we think, but there is always going to be someone who will give you a dirty look. I have been fortunate enough to have never experienced rejection or racial slurs first-hand, and people have been genuinely nice to me. That being said, we cannot forget that the U.S. is currently going through a lot of political and social turmoil based on people’s personal beliefs, and it is heartbreaking to see how racism and rejection affect not only immigrants who seek a better future but also Americans themselves. It is so difficult to witness how a beautiful country is being divided due to different opinions, hate and discrimination. I have hope that with time the situation will improve and that this country will welcome everyone again. 

The content of this article was provided by students studying in Xavier’s Intensive English Program in coordination with Professor Madeleine Mitchell and was assembled by Opinion & Editorials Editor Ryan Kambich.