The Collegian
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Get cultured: Learn from the haves and have-nots

Contrary to popular belief, the University of Richmond is full of all kinds of people from different backgrounds. Everyone here did not attend private school, nor does every student have things such as trust funds or even savings accounts.

In reality, there are people on campus who come from single-parent upbringings, working-poor families and homes with no cable television. Here, we all have the wonderful opportunity of studying abroad, a chance to live and learn in a country that we aren't familiar with.

But what about learning how to live with our fellow students here on campus, whose backgrounds and customs can be just as foreign?

Imagine sitting in a classroom during a professor's lecture. As most professors do, he or she uses examples to help students better understand the lecture. Let's say he or she refers to a specific television show, but this show only airs on a digital cable channel.

Everyone in the class understands how the example ties into the subject, except one student. When the one student asks another to clarify the example from class, the other says: "Haven't you ever seen the show? Everyone's seen that show," as if it were a rite of passage. Maybe he would have been familiar with the show if he/she grew up with cable, let alone digital cable, to watch the show.

Here's another example: You're talking with a group of friends in D-Hall, and a movie you guys saw in class is the topic of conversation. A highlight of the movie was a scene that included a teenager receiving her first car. You all go around sharing stories about your first vehicle, assuming everyone at the table had received a vehicle in his/her life.

One girl in the group never had a car of her own and didn't even have a driver's license. What was she going to contribute to the conversation? Should she have just walked away mid-conversation because she couldn't relate to the rest of the girls at her table?

These hypothetical examples may seem small to some, but for the people who have felt excluded, embarrassed and even ignored on this campus because of their social and/or economic statuses, this is far from something trivial. The truth is we all need to stop assuming.

It isn't fair to assume that everyone has had cotillions, birthday parties or beach homes. Some may take this as me overreacting to the simple fact that we aren't all equal, but for those who do, just put yourselves in the shoes of the people who have felt left out at Richmond. What would you do when you were asked to write about your summer vacation, when you've never been on a vacation in your life? How about when you were asked for your cell phone number, when you didn't have a cell phone?

Don't take this as accusatory. I myself have assumed too many times in my life, but have learned much along the way. We all need to be aware of our differences in order to learn how to get along with each other. Living in a cloud of oblivion isn't going to help this effort.

So, as those of you planning to study abroad pick and choose the country you will be living and learning in, also consider learning about the people you live with here on campus. We aren't thousands of miles away, but we may still be worlds apart from each other.

Contact staff writer Kiara Lee at kiara.lee@richmond.edu

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