Over 20 years ago my family moved to Africa for almost a month. While they were there (before I was born) my dad walked to the local health clinic with a guy from Australia every morning and every morning he looked my dad in the eye and exclaimed with a thick accent, "America! Greatest nation on earth!" He was completely sarcastic in a joking sort of way and my dad still says it was after this experience that he began to realize how the rest of the world views the United States. We think we're big, bad and the best. We go into foreign countries expecting to solve all the problems (South Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) and don't usually consider the effects of our actions. I'm often reminded of the Will Farrell "Voice Immodulation" skit where he screams, "We're loud, we're proud! Get used to it!"
While that may be a good stereotype of Americans, only those who experience life outside the United States can truly understand this nation and culture. While I believe America is an incredible nation with vast resources and determination to succeed, I also understand we have a culture that deserves to be ridiculed on occasion (all in good fun). With that said, I believe the international student population has an incredible perspective to bring to this student body, but there is not a great forum to do so. For better or worse, there is not always a strong bond that forms between American students and international students and I believe everyone is missing out on rewarding relationships.
There are a few new policies that I believe should be implemented for international students to make sure that when they leave they have fully experienced America and an American university.
First, I believe there should be a program that allows international students to rent cars from the university. Junior Sam Fernando from New Zealand recently said that without a car it's "quite difficult to get around" the city. Let's face it: The bus system needs some serious reform that will make it a more efficient and more direct form of public transportation. In the mean time, there are tons of students on this campus who do not get a chance to truly experience the city of Richmond and its culture. Fortunately, Sam has been able to meet people who tutor students and attend church in the East End of Richmond. This experience, he says, has allowed him to learn about more than just the University of Richmond students and campus. I think this is a shame that most people at this school don't have the same opportunities because Richmond has a lot to offer (even compared to the coolest foreign cities) but is often not practical to visit. With a car rental program, students would have the option to see the city when they want to.
Second, there should be a dancing class every semester taught by an undergraduate international student. Let's face it; we Americans often have a really repetitive and overly sexual way of dancing that is very unique to this nation. It seems like most high schoolers in America are taught that the bump-and-grind is the only cool way to dance and as a result we have nothing else to do when the music starts. Dancing is something I really enjoy talking about because the typical American dance looks nothing short of ridiculous to many students who come from abroad. There should be a way for us to learn new ways of dancing as a cultural education and also to prepare us for our own trips abroad. I hate to think about the "American perverts" who walk into a bar in Sydney, Australia and start grinding on random girls ... not savvy.
Finally, international students should be allowed to fill temporary memberships in fraternities and sororities. There could be an online form of rush that serves to place interested students in the Greek organization that best fits their personality. In this way, students can immediately find a social circle and be able to build friendships with people who might not usually go out of their way to do so. While not perfect, these organizations have served thousands of students at Richmond in the past and would certainly be an interesting experience for students who have no past knowledge of the Greek system.
In addition, international students who desire to write opinion columns in The Collegian should notify me immediately and make their voices heard.
With these changes, students from abroad will have even more opportunity to become a part of the student body and the student experience that is Richmond. There are incredible friendships to be forged and international perspectives to be gained on both sides, but they do not usually come naturally. I say we expose everyone to a truly American hodge-podge of cultures that makes our nation so incredible. After all, we really are the greatest.
Contact staff writer Michael Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org
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